Microbial Oceanography


Evidence from scientific research over the last one decade; have brought to light the complex and crucial role played by marine microbes in the marine food web, nutrient cycling, formation of Oxygen Minimum Zone (OMZ), etc. Marine microbes such as picoplanktons, archea, bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi and virus occupy all realms in the ocean including bottom sediments, hydrothermal vents, polar ice caps, etc. Their numerical abundance is much higher than all known marine species put together. These microbes may be free living or associated with other marine biota as commensals, symbionts, parasites and phages influencing the host physiology and metabolism in ways unknown to us. Microbial mediated bioluminescence and toxin secretions are reported from many marine organisms. Many microbes, especially the actinomycetes secrete specialized enzymes and antibiotics having therapeutic and pharmaceutical applications. Whereas, microbes such as cynaobacteria, clostridium, help in nitrogen fixation, the anaerobic bacteria associated with POM of the OMZ area causes denitrification and release of nitrogen oxide – a green house gas- as the end product. The roles of bacteria in the anammox reactions have also been recently reported. Viruses, besides being known pathogens also cause senescence of microalgae, lysis of bacterial cells and production of dimethyl sulphide (DMS) by enzymatic hydrolysis of dimethyl sulphoniopropionate (DMSP). The realization that the functional role of microbes in the marine environment are diverse and perhaps more significant than thought earlier, have lead to the emergence of microbial oceanography as a specialized field of marine sciences.

a) Objectives

  1. Conduct field experiments in open oceans, complemented by remote sensing, metagenomics, bioinformatics and laboratory studies to gain insights into working of a few important ecosystems along the coast of India. Development of algorithms for use with remote sensing for identification of microbial activity.
  2. Improve our ability to simulate the physical system. Microbial diversity including those of as yet uncultivable forms, Keystone microbes, Bioinformatics – functional metagenomics.
  3. Develop tools for predicting evolution of the microbial oceanography influenced ocean services and products (like microbial CDOM linked primary productivity estimates) using empirical, stochastic, and dynamical models. Biogeochemical cycles with N (and others) as a proxy element, energetic, Microbial physiology (addresses issues by experimentation), and Coupling of Microbial process between atmospheric, pelagic and benthic, including OMZ, sub-surface in situ observations (telemetry, including arrays and ROVs)
  4. Elucidation of role of microbial communities in nutrient flux in marine environments and in modulating climate change. Biotechnological investigations.
  5. Modelling including transformation to GIS applications.

b) Participating Institutions:

Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology, Kochi; NIOT; NCAOR; NIO-Goa; NIO-Kochi; Goa University; Pune University; Mangalore University; CASMB, Annamalai University.

c) Implementation Plan

The scheme is proposed as a multi-institutional activity addressing major areas of microbial oceanography research. In order to evaluate the activities under the various disciplines it is proposed to have a Project Monitoring Committee constituted that will oversee the progress of projects and suggest mid-term corrections, if any. Besides this a Steering Committee for the programme is also to be put in place for guiding the policies and strategies that have relevance and importance for the nation in the field of microbial oceanography

  1. Microbial Taxonomy and Biodiversity: Goa Univ & NIO
  2. Microbial Biogeochemistry; CMLRE, NIO, NCAOR
  3. In vitro bioprocessing of polymetallic nodules using deep sea microorganisms- NIOT
  4. Centre for Microbial Oceanographic Studies (C-MOS) and augmentation of vessel facilities

d) Deliverables:

  1. Information system on marine microbes of NEAS & SO

e) Budget : 100 crores

(Rs. In crores)

Budget Requirement
Name of the Scheme 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 Total
Microbial Oceanography 5 20 25 25 25 100


Last Updated On 04/07/2015 - 12:55
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