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Microbial Observatories: Eukaryotic Microbial Communities of the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve

A grant has been awarded to Drs. Peter Lavrentyev and Robert Duff of the University of<br/>Akron to examine taxonomic composition of planktonic protists in relation to their key functions<br/>at the NOAA Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve (OWC NERR). Samples<br/>will be collected from four stations along the stream-Lake Erie transect at monthly intervals in<br/>conjunction with the ongoing long-term monitoring. Microbial community structure,<br/>distribution, and dynamics will be examined under different hydrologic and climatic conditions<br/>using molecular, digital video, flow-cytometry, and microscopic methods. This study will<br/>generate a library of protistan images and ribosomal DNA sequences which will contribute novel<br/>taxonomic and ecological data to the scientific community and publicly accessible databases.<br/>The taxonomic survey will be supplemented by field experiments, which will examine the effect<br/>of differences in microbial community composition on two functional aspects of the community:<br/>growth and grazing.<br/>Protists (unicellular eukaryotic microorganisms) play an important role in aquatic ecosystems<br/>by regulating bacterial and primary production and regenerating the bulk of inorganic nutrients<br/>but the relationship between their diversity and functions remains poorly understood. This study<br/>will increase our knowledge of microbial life in critical estuarine/coastal wetland environments<br/>and improve our ability to predict complex and dynamic microbial processes in the Great Lakes<br/>and the coastal ocean. On a yet broader scale, the study will provide new insights about the<br/>relationship between biodiversity and function in natural communities. Finally, this study will<br/>have an impact on the infrastructure of education within the PIs institutions and beyond.<br/>Students at UA and FIU involved in the project will experience a wide range of professional<br/>activities and will be involved in all aspects of the research enterprise. In addition, this project<br/>will provide information for the OWC NERR visitor center exhibit and thus contribute to the<br/>general public understanding of the importance of preserving biodiversity and estuarine/wetland<br/>environments. The results of this study will be invaluable in informing decisions on conservation<br/>and environmental management these important habitats that have become increasing threatened.

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