Role of symbiotic bacteria in modulating competitive interactions between freshwater phytoplankton populations
Mentor: Vincent Denef
Phytoplankton communities (algae, diatoms and other aquatic photosynthetic organisms living in the water column) are responsible for half of Earth’s net primary productivity. Because species differ in their requirements and uptake of essential elements (e.g, C, N, P), phytoplankton community composition affects biogeochemical cycles. Therefore, it is important to understand which factors control phytoplankton composition. We plan to use an existing collection of the 60 most common species of North American planktonic freshwater green algae to: (i) determine how associated bacterial communities alter algal growth dynamics, algal-algal competitive interactions, and species coexistence; and (ii) determine whether phycosphere bacterial community similarity and the bacterial impact on algal-algal competition are evolutionarily conserved. The student will be involved in laboratory experiments focused on characterizing the bacteria associated with algae using microscopy and molecular methods (DNA sequencing), as well as in performing competition experiments.