As postdoctoral scholar working with Dr. Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez at UC Santa Barbara, our work focused on coccolithophores, tiny phytoplankton that secrete calcium carbonate structures and are important contributors to the ocean carbon pump.
I am carrying out several projects related to intraspecific diversity of the coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi, in the Santa Barbara Channel (SBC). The inherent complexities of the species concept in marine phytoplankton present difficulties in determining diversity and predicting the fate of ecosystems in light of global climate change. Intraspecific variation may yield differences in genomic, morphological, physiological, biogeochemical, and ecological properties comparable in magnitude to those found across multiple species.
Flow cytometry provides us with a powerful tool to identify phytoplankton groups, distinguish populations within groups, and isolate single cells from seawater samples based on optical properties. These isolates can then initiate laboratory cultures with cells possessing the genetic and physiological diversity that is representative of local environments. The oceanographically dynamic SBC provides an ideal natural laboratory to study environmental drivers of intraspecific diversity in E. huxleyi.