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Seminar: Dr. Erik Zettler, Sea Education Association

October 5, 2016 @ 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Erik Zettler Ph.D.UNC Marine Sciences’ Associate Professor Marc Alperin hosts a seminar presented by Erik Zettler, Ph.D.

Seminar Title: Diversity & Function of the Marine “Plastisphere” Community

Presenter Affiliation: Sea Education Association (SEA)

Summary: The “Plastisphere” encompasses a diverse microbial and metazoan community living on plastic marine debris (PMD). There is substantial public and scientific interest in PMD and the problems of entanglement and ingestion by fish, turtles, birds, and marine mammals, but the microbial community on this manufactured substrate is just beginning to be studied. Global plastic production exceeds 300 million metric tons per year and it is estimated that up to 5% of plastic waste is entering the ocean. As a result, plastic is now the most common form of debris in the ocean, reaching concentrations of over 1 million pieces per square kilometer in ocean accumulation zones. Each of these pieces develops a microbial biofilm that may contribute to global nutrient cycling, toxin transport, trophic web interactions, plastic degradation, and the spread of potentially pathogens. Using a combination of imaging, culture work,  next-generation amplicon sequencing, and metagenomics on both field and experimental samples we are investigating the diversity and function of the Plastisphere community.A buoy covered with biofilm and encrusting organisms photo by Erik Zettler

Erik is a Research Professor of Oceanography at Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, MA. As a microbial ecologist and oceanographer he has been a member of the Woods Hole scientific community for many years, having worked for 9 years in the Biology Dept. at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution before joining SEA in 1994. Whenever possible, he escapes the lab and his desk to work in the field, having participated on over 50 research cruises aboard SEA and UNOLS vessels in the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, and Caribbean.

B.S., Biology-freshwater ecology, Allegheny College, Pennsylvania, USA

M.Sc., Biology-plankton ecology, University of Waterloo, Canada

Ph.D., Biology-microbial ecology, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain