The oceans cover our planet and are filled with microbial life. Yet, these organisms and the complex interactions between them are mostly unexplored in comparison to what is known of organisms in terrestrial environments. The Case lab's research focuses on elucidating the nature of bacterial-algal interactions and exploring how they influence the earth's climate. Interactions between bacteria and algae occur physically when bacteria live on and in algae, but they can also occur chemically through the multitude of bioactive compounds that marine bacteria and algae produce. These compounds modulate their symbiotic partner's behavior and survival, and in this way are able to shape marine communities. Also of interest are the chemical interactions between bacteria and algae that produce climatically important intermediates of the marine sulfur and carbon cycles.
Current research in the Case laboratory focuses on elucidating interactions that exist between abundant and ubiquitous marine microorganisms, namely microalgae and roseobacters The latter are a group of marine bacteria commonly found associated with marine eukaryotes, especially algae, as pathogens or symbionts Specifically, our current aims are to:
(1) Identify and characterize the activity of signaling and bioactive compounds produced in bacterial-algal symbiosis, and
(2) Determine the role climate and climatically important compounds have on modulating these interactions
These aims are addressed in both laboratory and field based studies. In the laboratory, we use model organisms to identify molecules and genes underlying specific mechanisms involved in modulating bacterial-algal interactions. We then track the molecules and genes identified through these lab-based studies in the field, correlating their abundance with natural phenomena. In the field we are interested in biofouling communities associated to man made surfaces and in the open ocean we study the bacterial community associated to algal surfaces in bloom conditions. By studying these systems in the field and the laboratory, our research team hopes to identify the role of small molecules in global processes.
Current projects in the Case Laboratory: