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Seminar: Dr. Ashley Smyth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
March 9, 2016 @ 3:35 pm - 4:35 pm
Are microbes the answer to our pollution problems? Effects of microbial community structure and function on plastic and nutrient pollution (Host: Marc Alperin) Marine debris and nutrients are impacting coastal ecosystems globally. Nutrient pollution has contributed to eutrophication while microplastics have been found in the surface waters and benthos of many aquatic habitats. These pollutants can physically and chemically threaten marine organisms and degrade ecosystems. Microbes may offer a solution to nutrient and plastic pollution problems. This presentation will explore interactions between bivalves, microorganisms and pollutants in the coastal zone. Bivalves play a fundamental role in the functioning of marine ecosystems, provide an economic resource through aquaculture and are used to determine early stages of environmental contaminations. The role of microbes in ecosystem functions is well documented, yet knowledge of how microbial services can be used to combat pollution is needed. Using insights from recent field and laboratory experiments, we will discuss 1) the impacts of bivalve aquaculture on sedimentary denitrification; 2) the effects of microplastics on bacterial denitrification; and 3) the response of the mussel microbiome to different microplastic polymers. Understanding the role of microbes in combating pollution will improve ecosystem-wide management initiatives, and in turn, provide feedback for the applicability of microbial data to serve management and conservation strategies.