Description of Research

Most of the carbon on earth is stored in the oceans, and marine phytoplankton are responsible for 40% of CO2 removal annually. Therefore, the oceans and its biota are at the center of the global carbon cycle. Considering this, relatively little is known about how fast phytoplankton grow (and remove more CO2), what prevents them from growing faster, and what chemical and physical factors favor one group of phytoplankton over another.
We do know that adding iron to seawater stimulates phytoplankton growth in many regions. Details of how phytoplankton acquire and metabolize Fe is a focus of our research.  In particular, we are interested in how different species acquire various forms of Fe, and the biochemical "tools" (such as cell surface reductases and transporters) that different species use.  We have been using genome-enabled approaches to study mechanisms of CO2 acquisition and recovery of  the products of photorespiration in marine diatoms.  In addition, we have other projects involving other metals such as Mn, Zn, Ni, and Cd, as well as one dealing with freshwater phytoplankton and adaptations to acidic environments with pH as low as 2.
One common thread of our projects is that they are typically interdisciplinary, with approaches rooted in  phytoplankton ecology, physiology and molecular biology, aquatic chemistry and field-based oceanography. 
Visit our research projects (links in progress):

Phytoplankton and iron transport

Iron uptake from siderophores 

Antarctic phytoplankton and iron 

Fundamental aspects of C fixation 

Iron metabolism in open ocean N fixers 

Contributing NCAS Faculty

Adam Kustka
Adam Kustka
Associate Professor, Chair