Funded Research - Project Profile: Van Mooy-01

Project Title: Environmental Lipidomics of Suspended and Sinking Particles in the Upper Ocean

Project Lead: Benjamin Van Mooy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution



Despite the importance of planktonic lipids, geoscientists have only a basic understanding of lipid distributions in the ocean and cannot predict how lipids will change in response to future global warming. Results from lab experiments with cultures of phytoplankton suggest the potential for significant future alterations in the types and amounts of lipids produced in the oceans. The research being conducted as part of this project seeks to address this problem by producing the first global-scale assessment of lipids in the ocean. The overarching strategy will be to apply lipidomics, a state-of-the-art method for simultaneously analyzing all of the lipids in a plankton cell, to a library of thousands of samples from a broad range of ocean environments. These environments nearly span the global range in factors thought to affect plankton lipid metabolism. Samples from the EXPORTS program will provide critical insights on the transport of planktonic lipids to the mesopelagic zone; lipids account for approximately 20% of particulate organic carbon export. This project will shed new light on the identity, sources, and fates of the vast diversity of planktonic lipids, and enable scientists to predict and respond to changes in the future output of lipids from the ocean. Furthermore, lipidomics will shed new light on the factors that affect particulate carbon export.

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