Life in a Turbulent Environment: How the Dynamic Ocean Shapes the Distribution, Diversity, and Growth of Microorganisms

February 2015

Life and evolution in marine environments have played a key role for life on our planet since at least 2.8 billion years ago (the age of stromatolites of fossilized oxygen-producing cyanobacteria). Today phytoplankton is considered responsible for roughly half of Earth’s photosynthetic activities, playing an essential role in the carbon cycle; phytoplankton is also a fundamental element at the very base of the aquatic food web, playing a key ecological role for all forms of aquatic life. Despite their fundamental importance, the life and evolution of marine colonies are still not understood in many respects. This difficulty is connected with the strong interplay between many phenomena: the variability of oceanic conditions, including flow transport and other biotic and abiotic factors; the biological properties of the individual animals; and the statistical properties of population. In contrast to terrestrial organisms, the majority of marine life forms (plankton) are transported by fluid, along continually evolving flow trajectories and eddying pathways in response to various forces. The discussions in the workshop will concern oceanic ecosystems, their sustenance in varied environments, the interdependencies of processes sustaining them, and the interaction between physics and biology at various scales.