Collaborative marine science took a leap of global proportions on June 21, 2014. At carefully orchestrated times on that day, hundreds of scientists around the world collected ocean samples, using standardized protocols, as part of the first international Ocean Sampling Day (OSD). They were united by the goal of identifying the microbial communities in all the samples–no small task given that one drop of seawater contains about 20 million microbes.

This movie features MBL Associate Scientist Linda Amaral-Zettler, who took a lead role in OSD as a scientific adviser to the project’s European sponsor, MicroB3, and who actively sampled and helped coordinate sampling in the Azorean Islands. Building a knowledge base of marine microbes is critical for understanding the impact of global challenges to ocean health, such as a warming climate.

“Sampling is expensive,” Amaral-Zettler says. “The more we can leverage individual regional efforts and resources, the better we will be in protecting the ocean.”

As soon as they were collected, the samples were frozen and shipped to Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany. The next step is to identify “who” are in the samples through DNA extraction and analysis.

OSD will take place again in 2015 and hopefully into the future, Amaral Zettler says, which would provide a long-term perspective on how marine microbial diversity changes over time. “We need to understand how things are changing in order to protect them.”

: In a cell-free experimental system, interacting microtubule asters (green) recruit cytokinesis signals (Aurora B kinase, magenta). Credit: Phuong A. Nguyen, Harvard Medical School and MBL

In a cell-free experimental system, interacting microtubule asters (green) recruit cytokinesis signals (Aurora B kinase, magenta). Credit: Phuong A. Nguyen

Building a cell from its components is a synthetic approach to understanding cell biology that has emerged as a hot research goal in the past few years. Recently, a team of MBL visiting scientists from Harvard Medical School built a fully controllable, cell-free experimental system that allows them to visualize and study the final phase of cell division (cytokinesis), when the cell splits in two. This system consists of supported lipid bilayers that mimic the cell membrane, artificial centrosomes, and extract from the cytoplasm of frog (Xenopus) eggs. It represents the first-ever reconstitution of cytokinesis signaling outside of living cells. The group was able to assemble arrays of antiparallel microtubules that recruit cleavage furrow proteins that signal to the “cell cortex.” The spatial scale was unusually large, since Xenopus eggs are huge relative to human tissue cells, and as a result the team could query the biophysics of cytokinesis signaling over many minutes and many microns using powerful imaging modalities, notably TIRF (total internal reflection fluorescence) microscopy. This led them to several significant mechanistic discoveries. The research team included Phuong Nguyen, Aaron Groen, Martin Loose, Keisuke Ishihara, Martin Wuhr, Christine Field, and Timothy Mitchison. (Science, doi: 10.1126/science.1256773, 2014).

Akash Srivastava, a student in the Brown-MBL Graduate Program in Biological and Environmental Sciences, successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Transdifferentiation of Liver to Pancreas” on August 18 at Brown University. Srivastava, a student in the Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry Department (MCB) at Brown, conducted his research at the MBL’s Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering under the advisement of MBL Associate Scientist Marko Horb. His doctoral committee members also included Rich Freiman, Kristi Wharton, and Eric Morrow from the MCB Department.

Srivastava’s doctoral research helped to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in transdifferentiation of liver to pancreas in the frog Xenopus laevis. He identified a previously unknown role of a highly conserved beta-catenin inhibitor protein (Chibby) in transdifferentiation of liver to pancreas and in normal pancreas development. His research also provided a better understanding of the function of Wnt/beta catenin signaling in pancreas development. Funding for his research came from the Horb lab at with grant support from the National Institutes of Health.

After completing his final manuscripts, Srivastava plans to work as a validation consultant in the pharmaceutical industry.

Akash Srivastava defends his thesis at Brown University for his Ph.D. in the Brown-MBL Graduate Program.

Akash Srivastava defends his thesis at Brown University for his Ph.D. in the Brown-MBL Graduate Program.

UChicago Center in Delhi

MBL Marine Resources Manager Dave Remsen and University of Chicago Center in Delhi Executive Director Bharath Visweswariah

Marine Resources Manager Dave Remsen recently visited the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, India while traveling there on other business. UChicago opened the new Center last spring, billing it as an “intellectual destination” offering 17,000 square feet of lecture halls, seminar rooms and offices designed to invite and expand global collaboration across institutions and disciplines. The Center is interested in fostering collaborations within three broad areas of study: Business, Economics, Law, and Policy; Culture, Society, Religion, and the Arts; and Science, Energy, Medicine, and Public Health.

While at the Center, Remsen met with Executive Director Bharath Visweswariah to discuss the new MBL-UChicago affiliation and potential collaborative opportunities between the Delhi Center and the MBL. Stay tuned for more information.

View photos of University of Chicago Center in Delhi here.

Take a look at the eye-popping, deep-sea exploration footage in this video about the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI). Julie Huber, associate director of the MBL’s Bay Paul Center, is also associate director of C-DEBI, a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center at the University of Southern California.

The researchers involved with this collaborative national center, Huber says, are asking the “big questions” about life in the deep ocean and below the seafloor. “We are at the exponential exploratory phase,” says Huber, who is on the pioneering edge of discovering subterranean microbial life.

This video was produced by Mira Zimet at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

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