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Microbial oceanography in a sea of opportunity


Plankton use solar energy to drive the nutrient cycles that make the planet habitable for larger organisms. We can now explore the diversity and functions of plankton using genomics, revealing the gene repertoires associated with survival in the oceans. Such studies will help us to appreciate the sensitivity of ocean systems and of the ocean's response to climate change, improving the predictive power of climate models.

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Figure 1: Methods of visualizing plankton.
Figure 2: Proposed framework for assessing oceanic microbial diversity in a functional context.
Figure 3: Miniaturized ecogenomic sensors to measure microbial activity.


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Many of the themes discussed here were inspired by a workshop entitled 'Implications and Opportunities of the Marine Genomics Revolution' held in Bermuda in October 2007 and sponsored by the Marine Genomics Europe Network of Excellence (GOCE-CT-2004-505403), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF), the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the US Office of Naval Research Global, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, and the Japanese Science and Technology Agency. We thank the participants of this meeting as well as the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. We apologize to colleagues whose work we could not cite because of space restrictions. Work in our laboratories is supported by the European Union, the Agence Nationale de la Recherche and CNRS (C.B.), the NSF (grant number EF-04245599), GBMF and Agouron Institute (D.M.K.), and the NSF (grant number 0813066), the National Institutes of Health (grant number 1RO1A139129-01) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (grant number S0660009) (R.R.C.).

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Bowler, C., Karl, D. & Colwell, R. Microbial oceanography in a sea of opportunity. Nature 459, 180–184 (2009).

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