Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
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GonyaulaxMicrobes dominate our planet, especially our oceans. The distinguishing feature of microorganisms is their small size, usually defined as less than 100 micrometers (µm); they are all invisible to the naked eye. The similarity may end there. As a group, sea microbes are extremely diverse taxonomically, and extremely versatile with respect to their metabolic capabilities.

The study of aquatic organisms at the molecular level is a mainstay of modern biological oceanography. Numerous diagnostic procedures exist for identifying marine organisms and their genes and gene products, and for elucidating the roles they play in biogeochemical cycles. The disparity between our capacity to measure physical and chemical oceanographic parameters versus our ability to understand the distribution, abundance and activities of specific microorganisms within that milieu impedes our ability to characterize a wide range of biological phenomena.

Microbiology Activities | Back to top

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The Good, the Bad, and the Bountiful

This lesson uses a dramatization game to provide an introduction to microbes—what they are, what they do, where they are found and how they affect humans.
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Microbes and Climate

This activity is meant to provide students with an understanding of how microbes play a role in the climate system, from the formation of the atmosphere to current climate dynamics to the role of microbes in climate change.
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Predicting Growth

This lab is designed to give students a “hands-on” experience to help answer the question: How can you determine where in your environment you might find microorganisms?

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Microalgae: Blooms Gone Wild!

Students analyze near real time data that reflects algae concentrations and conditions that might foster that development and make educated predictions of potential for algae development given a set of environmental conditions.

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Microbes are a BLAST

This lesson provides students with an opportunity to explore the diversity of microbes in the marine environment.


Microbiology in the news | Back to top

WHOI News: (07/19/13)
First global atlas of marine plankton reveals remarkable underwater world

TED blog: (07/18/13)
8 talks about harnessing the power of bacteria for good

Reuters: (07/12/13)
Next Mars mission should search for past microbial life: science panel

NBC News: (10/2/12)
Live in concert! Microbial data is turned into song in lab

Nature News: (07/14/13)
Researchers glimpse microbial 'dark matter'

Star Advertiser: (07/18/10)
Scientists hope to solve mystery of algae blooms in open ocean

Microbiology Resources | Back to top



Harmful Algal Blooms


Dead Zones


Winogradsky Columns

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Last updated: Jul. 19, 2013