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Novel Microscopy Helps Stony Brook Researchers Examine the Ocean Like Never Before

Gordon taylor margarita

Novel Microscopy Helps Stony Brook Researchers Examine the Ocean Like Never Before

Grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation supports research uncovering the mysteries that help shape our Global Ecosystem and Environment

STONY BROOK, N.Y., February 1, 2016 – There are about one million bacteria, thousands of species and untold genetic diversity in just one drop of seawater. This amazing fact and the powerful roles played by marine microbes in shaping the health of the ocean’s ecosystem and our climate has led Gordon T. Taylor, a Professor of Oceanography at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), to focus his research on uncovering the wonders of marine microbial life. Now, a new $800,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will enable Professor Taylor and colleagues to develop new microscopy-based technologies to probe this environment at levels not seen before.

“Most microorganisms in the ocean are beneficial, but their roles are still poorly known. We do know that their activities and diversity strongly influence the health and balance of marine ecosystems and therefore our entire planet,” said Professor Taylor. “This is why we need to better define what we call ‘marine microbial communities’ and more fully understand their full impact on ocean health, climate, pollution, and diseases in marine life.”

Gordon Taylor

Professor Gordon Taylor leads a research team that uses novel microscopy to examine marine life at minute scales not possible before.  

The new grant, established through the SUNY Research Foundation, is part of the Moore Foundation’s Marine Microbiology Initiative (MMI), which promotes innovative, high-risk research on marine microbial communities in order to explore their structure and function, genetic diversity, ecological roles and contribution to ocean health and productivity. MMI supports current and emerging leaders in marine science through investigator awards, multidisciplinary team projects and community resource projects.

Led by Professor Taylor, the research team includes Dr. Virginia Edgcomb of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Dr. Joaquin Martínez Martínez of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Professor Taylor emphasized that the Moore Foundation support enables his team to pursue avenues of marine research that are not often supported by traditional funding sources.

The research team will develop novel technologies to examine organization of marine microbial communities or as coined by Taylor the study of “microspatial seascape ecology”. More specifically, the grant will help advance studies on how marine microorganisms control cycling of major elements in the ocean, primarily carbon but also nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. The grant will help support the development of cutting-edge techniques to map out three-dimensional distributions of organic resources and community members at spatial scales meaningful to marine microorganisms.

Professor Taylor and colleagues will examine the marine environment at sub-micrometer spatial scales using state-of-the-art Confocal Raman Microspectrometry and Atomic Force Microscopy in the SoMAS Nano-Raman Molecular Imaging Laboratory. The lab was previously established with a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation program grant and matching SBU support.

“Our lab will be able to probe and define the marine microenvironment at scales not previously possible and reveal how resources are cycled to micropredators and viruses within plankton communities,” explained Dr. Taylor. “This research will hopefully reveal more about the actual behavior of microbial populations, and about biodiversity, biogeography, and the transmission of infectious diseases within this environment.”

“The support of the Moore Foundation grant serves an essential role in advancing the field of marine ecology,” said Minghua Zhang, PhD, Dean and Director of Stony Brook’s SoMAS. ”With this grant and growing support, the SoMAS Nano-Raman Molecular Imaging Laboratory will emerge as a powerful entity to expand oceanographic research at Stony Brook and in our region.”


About Stony Brook University

Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. Since welcoming its first incoming class in 1957, the University has grown tremendously, now with more than 25,000 students and 2,500 faculty. Its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 100 universities in the nation and top 40 public universities, and Kiplinger names it one of the 35 best values in public colleges. One of four University Center campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, putting it in an elite group of universities that run federal research and development laboratories. A global ranking by U.S. News & World Report places Stony Brook in the top 1 percent of institutions worldwide.  It is one of only 10 universities nationwide recognized by the National Science Foundation for combining research with undergraduate education. As the largest single-site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook is a driving force of the regional economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.


Greg Filiano

Media Relations Manager

School of Medicine

Stony Brook University

Office of Communications and Marketing


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