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Marine microbes play an important role in the productivity and functioning of our oceans but scientists studying their behaviour face many challenges.
Traditional oceanographic instruments sample large volumes of seawater (up to tens of litres) but microbial interactions take place at a micro-litre scale.
Engineers - Microbiologists - Australia - US - Switzerland
Engineers and microbiologists in Australia, the US and Switzerland have formed a unique partnership to overcome these limitations. The team has developed a device that allows microbial ecologists to investigate microbial behaviour in their natural environment.
The new device exploits recent advances in microfabrication and microfluidic techniques that also opens-up a range of possibilities for biomedical research and water quality biomonitoring. The development, testing and first field results of the device, known as the In Situ Chemotaxis Assay (ISCA), have been published in Nature Microbiology.
Way - Behaviour - Marine - Microbes - Towards
"Until now there has really been no way to probe the behaviour of marine microbes towards certain chemicals in situ," says marine microbiologist and co-lead author Dr Jean-Baptiste Raina.
Dr Raina, from the Climate Change Cluster at the University of Technoloy Sydney (UTS), says that just as some people are drawn by the smell of food or perfumes, microbes are attracted by specific chemicals.
Behaviour - Chemotaxis - Seawater - World - Inhabit
"This behaviour is called chemotaxis and it is important because seawater isn't homogeneous. The microscale world that microbes inhabit is incredibly patchy, with a number of processes leading to nutrient hotspots, and it's in these microenvironments where all the microbial action takes place."
MIT engineer Ben Lambert, also a co-lead author, says, "With the ISCA we are really opening the door to being able to interrogate this behaviour in the natural environment. Our initial findings have shown that chemotaxis does take place among marine microbes and this validates many years of laboratory experiments and hypotheses put forth about...
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