HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Alexander Soloviev

Second Advisor

Silvia Matt

Third Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Fourth Advisor

Aurelien Tartar


Chapter 2

The sea surface microlayer is a biogenic thin layer, comprising less than one millimeter of the ocean surface. This surface layer has gained much attention due to its dampening effect on ocean capillary ripples. The chemistry of the air-sea interface has been studied for decades; however, the structure and function of the marine bacterial community within the sea surface microlayer are still understudied. Although various sea surface microlayer sampling techniques were developed over the past decades, aseptic bacterial sampling in the open ocean is a rather challenging task. In this study, a new approach is presented. It is designed for bacterial sampling of the sea surface microlayer, which intends to reduce sampling contamination from the vessel, subsurface water and the investigators. A 47mm polycarbonate membrane was utilized at each sampling site. In addition, the metagenomic approach using the new generation 454 high-throughput DNA sequencing system was employed to compensate for the small sample size. Two sample sets were collected in summer 2010 and fall 2011 from the sea surface microlayer and underlying water (20 cm deep). A contamination assessment was carried out to determine that contamination might have been caused during the use of the sampling techniques. A total of 14,120 bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences with an average length of 437.8 bp were obtained. A total of 1,254 Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) were constructed and 268 genera were identified. The results indicated that the bacterial compositions of the sea surface microlayer samples were distinct from those of the underlying water samples. This experiment demonstrated that the new generation sequencing platform and microbial metagenomics analysis software together served as powerful tools to gain a deeper understanding of microbial communities within the sea surface microlayer. Furthermore, it is suggested that the newly employed sampling methods could be used to obtain a snapshot of bacterial community structure as well as environmental conditions.

Chapter 3

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) remote sensing captures various fine-scale features on the ocean surface such as coastal discharge, oil pollution, vessel traffic, algal blooms and sea slicks. Although numerous factors potentially affect the SAR imaging process, the influence of biogenic and anthropogenic surfactants has been suggested as one of the primary parameters, especially under relatively low wind conditions. Surfactants have a tendency to dampen the short gravity-capillary ocean waves causing the sea surface to smoothen, thus allowing the radar to detect areas of surfactants. Surfactants are found in sea slicks, which are the accumulation of organic material shaped as elongated bands on the ocean’s surface. Sea slicks are often observable with the naked eye due to their glassy appearance and can also be seen on SAR images as dark scars. While the sources of surfactants can vary, some are known to be associated with marine bacteria. Countless numbers of marine bacteria are present in the oceanic environment, and their biogeochemical contributions cannot be overlooked. Not only do marine bacteria produce surfactants, but they also play an important role in the transformation of surfactants. In this study, we profiled the surfactant-associated bacteria composition within the biogenic thin layer of the ocean surface more commonly referred as the sea surface microlayer (SML). Bacterial samples were collected from the SML for comparative analysis from both within and outside of sea slick areas as well as the respective underlying subsurface water. The bacterial microlayer sampling coincided with SAR satellite, RADARSAT-2, overpasses to demonstrate the simultaneous in-situ measurements during a satellite image capture. The SML sampling method was designed to enable aseptic bacterial sampling. A 47 mm polycarbonate membrane was utilized at each sampling site to obtain a snapshot of the bacterial community structure at a specific space and time. Also, a new generation high-throughput sequencing method was employed to compensate for the small sample size acquired. A total of 27,006 nucleotide sequences (16S rRNA genes) with an average 437.8 bp in length were analyzed. The results revealed the presence of industrially important surfactant-producing marine bacteria, Acinetobacter, Bacillus, Corynebacterium and surfactant-degrading marine bacteria, Escherichia. In addition, Pseudomonas was detected which can be either a producer, decomposer or both. Recognizing that there is still a large number of marine bacterial species that have not been taxonomically classified nor recognized as surfactant-associated species, the effects on SAR imaging due to a high number of surfactant-associated marine bacteria is expected. This study has provided the basis for the biological importance for fine-scale synthetic aperture satellite imaging. Moreover, this new approach is expected to have applications in monitoring biological and chemical properties of the sea surface across the globe.

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