There are still many uncultured marine protists – including within the pico-size fraction. An approach developed in the lab that has generated new discoveries on their evolution and ecology has been sequence partial genomes from cells taken directly from the environment.
Although we know that bacteria attach to algae (even to picophytoplankton), the relationship between these organisms has not yet been characterized despite its potential influence on population dynamics and biogeochemical cycles.
Worldwide expeditions led by Bob Vrijenhoek and his colleagues have resulted in the discovery of many new species of deep-sea crabs, clams, mussels, snails, tubeworms and bacteria. Understanding the evolutionary relationships among deep-sea species and placing them in the tree-of-life has been a major goal of research efforts.
Sampling and identifying marine zooplankton (SIMZ) is a project aimed at advancing our understanding of plankton ecology. SIMZ uses autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to collect samples of zooplankton and molecular genetic techniques to assess their diversity and abundance.
Marine microbiologists typically use large databases to compare the genetic material of one microbe to that of others. Unfortunately, existing databases are woefully incomplete when it comes to microbes in the ocean.
Research programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) encompass the entire ocean, from the surface waters to the deep seafloor, and from the coastal zone to the open sea. The need to understand the ocean in all its complexity and variability drives MBARI's research and development efforts.