Monday, December 15, 2014

Two new diatom species found in Lonar lake

Two new diatom species found in Lonar lake

PUNE: Scientists have discovered two new species of diatoms - a kind of algae - at Lonar Lake in Buldhana district in Maharashra.

Though the environment of soda lakes is usually considered hostile for living beings, often many photosynthesizing organisms like algae, including diatoms are recorded in these places. The Lonar crater lake is a unique saline soda lake formed when a meteor struck around 50,000 years ago, and the discovery of new species points to the thriving biodiversity of the lake.

Karthick Balasubramanian, a scientist in the plant division at Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) and one of the four researchers who discovered these species, explained that diatoms are one of the most ecologically significant group of organisms and each species is specific to their environment with unique characteristics. "These two species were found to be extremely pollution-tolerant, indicating the presence of large quantities of Nitrogen and Phosphate in the water body," he said.

Scientists from city-based ARI have been studying the microbial biodiversity of this ancient lake for more than a decade.

The two species are named Nitzschia kociolekii and Nitzschia tripudio. The first species is named afterProfessor J Patrick Kociolek, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, a known face of diatom research.

"Diatoms are special types of algae that live inside 'glass houses' - they have hard outer shells made of silicon and oxygen, the same elements that make up glass," Balasubramanian said. These outer casings are made of two half cylinders that fit together like a jewellery box. Inside is a single celled organism that can carry out photosynthesis and they are responsible for almost one fourth of the oxygen produced on Earth.

The other scientists involved in the study were Alakananda Batni from Gubbi Labs, Bangalore, Paul B Hamilton from Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada and Jonathan C Taylor associated with North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

The species are characterized by minute structures on its surface, known as areolae on diatom valves, that helps in exchange of gases and nutrients. The areolae and the valve shape state the evolutionary pattern of common species due to extreme environments like saline conditions and nutrients.

"This discovery is also significant as this is a relatively unexplored region of peninsular India," Balasubramanian added. "These species also show environmental importance and can be used as biological indicators, as they thrive in polluted regions and could be endemic to Peninsular India."

Another species of the same organism, Nitzschia williamsii, was recently described from Bangalore lakes by the same team and has also been recorded from Lonar Lake. This indicates that several extreme waterbodies in India, like Mangrove forests, estuaries, and waterfalls, might harbor numerous species endemic to Peninsular India.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Newsweek cover - Planet Reboot: Fighting Climate Change With Geoengineering

Planet Reboot: Fighting Climate Change With Geoengineering

Walking the Plankton

The world’s oceans have countless tiny organisms called phytoplankton. Also known as microalgae, these itty-bitty plants eat carbon dioxide from the water and release oxygen into the ocean as a by-product. Once the phytoplankton blooms take up the carbon from the ocean’s surface, they sink down to the deep ocean, where the carbon is effectively sequestered. They’re so productive that scientists think phytoplankton produce about 50 percent of the oxygen humans breathe.
If we could get phytoplankton to boost their uptake of carbon, it could have a huge global impact—and would be very simple to do. When the tiny plants get a boost of nutrients from the water around them, they eat a lot more carbon. And right now the oceans of the world are low in one particular nutrient—iron—although scientists aren’t sure why. So the phytoplankton aren’t nearly as active as they could be. In fact, when big storms blow iron-rich dust into the oceans, satellites see evidence of phytoplankton blooms in areas where they normally aren’t visible.
Over the past decade there have been more than 12 small-scale experiments in which scientists (and one rogue California businessman named Russ George) dumped iron dust into the ocean to test the hypothesis that phytoplankton could be triggered to wake up and start devouring mass quantities of carbon. All of the experiments (except George’s) showed that there was some benefit to seeding the ocean with iron.
Victor Smetacek, a biological oceanographer at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, contributed to one such study in 2009. Though he says there needs to be a lot more research into ocean seeding, he believes it’s a very promising option. “I’m talking about using a natural mechanism that has already proven itself,” Smetacek says. “We need to harness the biosphere and see where we can apply levers to lift the carpet and sweep some of the carbon under.”

Oddly, however, the ocean-seeding option seems to be a controversial one. Smetacek says that although he believes strongly in its benefits, it has never been a popular option among climate scientists. “This ocean iron fertilization is highly unpopular with technocratic geoengineers because it involves biology. But we have to get the biosphere to help,” he says. “The only thing we can do is try and nudge the biosphere as much as possible and try to open up as many carbon sinks as possible.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Researching diatoms as insulation material

Researching diatoms as insulation material

December 2, 2014
Dr. Mufit Akinc is leading a research effort to find and develop better insulation materials for buildings, appliances and other heating and cooling applications. Photo by the Iowa Energy Center.
Dr. Mufit Akinc is leading a research effort to find and develop better insulation materials for buildings, appliances and other heating and cooling applications. Photo by the Iowa Energy Center.
Dr. Mufit Akinc, a professor ofmaterials science and engineering at Iowa State University, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, are working to develop next-generation insulation materials for freezers, refrigerated trucks, buildings and other heating and cooling applications.
The idea is to replace traditional insulating materials such as foam, fiberglass and synthetic silica with better materials. Akinc figures the improvements could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in energy savings. “This study will contribute directly to energy savings in Iowa and beyond,” Dr. Akinc wrote in a project summary.
Back in his Hoover Hall lab, Dr. Akinc and graduate students Landi Zhong and Boyce Chang are working with the support of a two-year, $76,960 grant from the Iowa Energy Center. Mark Petri, director of the Energy Center, said the grant is part of the center’s new effort to help Iowa researchers compete for much larger research grants.
“The Iowa Energy Center is funded by the state of Iowa to support economic development through advances in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Petri said. “Anything we can do to improve thermal insulation of buildings would go far to improve energy conservation in the United States.”
Dr. Akinc and his students have focused their attention on vacuum insulation panels. The panels are just an inch or so thick and filled with an insulating powder that’s vacuum-sealed inside a foil cover. The vacuum enhances the insulating properties of the powder by eliminating the air molecules that can transfer heat. That’s how an inch-thick panel can provide as much insulating power as 10 inches of foam.
Dr. Akinc said the most common powder inside the panels is fumed silica, a synthetic nano-sized particle made from sand. But it’s expensive to make. And that makes the panels pricey for some applications, especially insulating homes and buildings. “The insulation industry is very cost-conscious and competitive – and right now the issue is cost.”
That has Dr. Akinc and his research group studying the porosity, surface area, density and other characteristics of low-cost alternatives, including glass fiber, fly ash, glass bubbles and diatomite. The most promising material so far is diatomite, the fossilized remains of single-celled algae called diatoms.
Diatoms have silica cell walls and grow just about anywhere there is water and sunshine. The skeletons they leave behind create diatomite. It’s inexpensive and filled with nanopores, just the material he has been working to find.
Dr. Akinc will soon be studying the material with an even bigger research team. The Iowa Energy Center has awarded another $20,000 to support the work of two more Iowa State researchers, Ulrike Passe, an associate professor of architecture, and Ganesh Balasubramanian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. They’ll collect data about the new material’s potential energy savings and manufacturability.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Breakthrough Nanotechnology to Greatly Reduce Pond Maintenance

Breakthrough Nanotechnology to Greatly Reduce Pond Maintenance

Release Date: November 25th, 2014
It is not every day we come across a product that will save you so much time in your pond cleaning routine. Using the power of Diatoms a natural bio filter, Nualgi Ponds stimulates the growth of these microorganisms that give off O2 and consume C02 for healthier and happier fish.
For the past year, Nualgi has been naturally reducing algae in ponds and aquariums across the world with positive reports stating, “I haven’t experienced such a rapid change in all my years…that very dark green thick water in my 3000 gallon holding pond cleared by 60% in less than 14 hours”
Nualgi Ponds Naturally Improves the Aquatic Food Chain
It creates a natural micro food chain that is beneficial to both koi Fish and aquatic plants and even contributes to reducing detritus levels in the pond. Some users experience overnight effects while others wait about 5 weeks depending on the light that the pond receives. After you begin dosing Nualgi the savings will begin to amount as a direct result of not having to buy all the different chemicals. Nualgi’s formula is certified non-toxic by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research and has successfully been used in large lakes and rivers in India for over ten years. However, adoption in the United States has been limited to private buyers of their Nualgi Aquarium & Nualgi Ponds products due to regulatory approval procedures.
Fight to Eliminate Global Water Pollution
Taking the first major step towards getting the United States to approve Nualgi’s use in fighting the water pollution in our lakes, rivers, bays, and oceans, Nualgi has secured facilities and a team of research scientists from Mississippi State University to perform a yearlong study. This double-blind study will be led by the aquaculture and fisheries staff at MSU to review Nualgi’s safety and effectiveness at reducing water pollution and improving water conditions in a commercial aquaculture setting. Independent aquaculture consultant and leader of the research study, Tom Frese, founder of AquaSol, Inc., is encouraged by the possibilities of large-scale application of this type of nanotechnology. "Water quality management in aquaculture is critical to environmental sustainability as well as commercial success. Nualgi is a promising and rather unique product that has the potential to be an important tool in every farm manager’s toolbox. We look forward to leading the independent study of Nualgi's products in aquaculture."
Help Fund Vital Research for Aquaculture
To help fund the Mississippi State University research study and allow Nualgi to begin treating harmful algae blooms in public waterways, they launched a Kickstarter campaign that will run for two weeks, from Nov. 24th - Dec, 8th 2014. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness as well as generate $100,000 to fund the double-blind research study at MSU. The possibilities are endless for this technology with long term goals including waste water treatment, food processors, aquaculture, foliar fertilizers and beyond. For the pond maintenance professional this product is revolutionary for fish health/vibrancy, plant growth, algae removal, and overall water quality management. Include this new technology to take advantage of the benefits immediately in your ponds for less maintenance, healthier fish, and severely less algae buildup!
Nualgi America, Inc. is the licensed distributor of Nualgi™ products in North America and the maker of Nualgi AquariumTM & Nualgi PondsTM. Support Nualgi and their mission to improve the world’s waterways at the source by donating to their Kickstarter campaign at
For more information contact:
Andrew Rowland

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Great Video about Diatoms

Video - The Diatomist on Vimeo

THE DIATOMIST is a short documentary about Klaus Kemp, master of the Victorian art of diatom arrangement.
Diatoms are single cell algae that create jewel-like glass shells around themselves. Microscopists of the Victorian era would arrange them into complex patterns, invisible to the naked eye but spectacular when viewed under magnification.The best of these arrangements are stunning technical feats that reveal the hidden grandeur of some of the smallest organisms on Earth. Klaus Kemp has devoted his entire life to understanding and perfecting diatom arrangement and he is now acknowledged as the last great practitioner of this beautiful combination of art and science. THE DIATOMIST showcases his incredible work.
Soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bernard Herrmann and Cults Percussion Ensemble.
MATTHEW KILLIP is an English filmmaker living in New York. His documentaries have been broadcast on UK television and exhibited in festivals including Sundance and True/False.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shift in Arabian Sea Plankton May Threaten Fisheries

This is one of the few reports that clearly state that Diatoms have declined and other phytoplankton have increased.

Shift in Arabian Sea Plankton May Threaten Fisheries

Growing "Dead Zone" Could Short-Circuit Food Chain

A growing "dead zone" in the middle of the Arabian Sea has allowed plankton uniquely suited to low- oxygen water to take over the base of the food chain. Their rise to dominance over the last decade could be disastrous for the predator fish that sustain 120 million people living on the sea's edge.
The rise of <em>Noctiluca scintillans </em>at the base of the Arabian Sea food chain threatens fisheries in Oman and other countries bordering the sea. (Joaquim Goes)
The rise of Noctiluca scintillans at the base of the Arabian Sea food chain threatens fisheries in Oman and other countries bordering the sea. (Joaquim Goes)
Scientists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and their colleagues are the first to document the rapid rise of green Noctiluca scintillans, an unusual dinoflagellate that eats other plankton and draws energy from the sun via microscopic algae living within its cells. Noctiluca's thick blooms color the Arabian Sea an emerald green each winter, from the shores of Oman on the west, to India and Pakistan on the east.
In a study published this week in Nature Communications, the researchers show how the millions of green algae living within Noctiluca's cells allow it to exploit an oxygen-starved dead zone the size of Texas. They hypothesize that a tide of nutrient-rich sewage flowing from booming cities on the Arabian Sea is expanding the dead zone and feeding Noctiluca's growth.
"These blooms are massive, appear year after year, and could be devastating to the Arabian Sea ecosystem over the long-term," said the study's lead author, Helga do Rosario Gomes, a biogeochemist at Lamont-Doherty.
Winter blooms of <em>Noctiluca</em> are so vast they can be seen from space. (Norman Kuring, NASA)
Winter blooms of Noctiluca are so vast they can be seen from space. (Norman Kuring, NASA)
Until recently, photosynthetic diatoms supported the Arabian Sea food chain. Zooplankton grazed on the diatoms, a type of algae, and were in turn eaten by fish. In the early 2000s, it all changed. The researchers began to see vast blooms ofNoctiluca and a steep drop in diatoms and dissolved oxygen in the water column. Within a decade, Noctiluca had virtually replaced diatoms at the base of the food chain, marking the start of a colossal ecosystem shift.
Green Noctiluca lives in the tropics while its close relative, red Noctiluca scintillans, whose blooms can sometimes kill fish with their high ammonia content, prefers temperate waters. Green Noctiluca is remarkably willing to eat anything. It feeds on other plankton, living or dead, flushing diatoms and other plankton into its gullet with a flick of its flagellum. It also draws energy from the millions of green algae, or "endosymbionts," living within its transparent cell walls. The algae fix carbon from sunlight and pass the energy, like rent, on to their host.
A varied diet gives Noctiluca its edge. "They can swim down to find nutrients, up to find light, and they can eat other small organisms," said Sharon Smith, a plankton ecologist at the University of Miami who works in the Arabian Sea but was not involved in the study.
To understand the key to Noctiluca's success, the researchers spent three successive winters aboard the Indian research ship Sagar Sampada, starting in 2009. Sailing off the coast of Goa, they sampled blooms and performed experiments. Putting Noctilucaand itsdiatom competitors in oxygen-starved water they found that Noctiluca's carbon-fixation rate rose by up to 300 percent while the diatoms' fell by nearly as much. They also found Noctiluca grew faster in light than in dark, thanks to its sun-loving endosymbiont-algae, which are thought to have evolved 1.3 billion years ago on an oxygen-scarce Earth.
The researchers tried to also identify Noctiluca's predators. They had heard reports of Omani fishermen seeing more gelatinous salps, jellyfish and sea turtles. Could they be eating the Noctiluca? Scooping up several salps from the sea, the researchers dropped them into buckets of seawater thick with Noctiluca blooms. In an hour, the water became visibly clearer. By measuring the drop in chlorophyll, the researchers estimated that one salp can polish off about two-thirds of a bucket of Noctiluca in an hour.  
"They chowed on Noctiluca, like rabbits in a lettuce patch," said Gomes. "This is a creature that few other marine animals want to eat."
Noctiluca is too big for the crustacean grazers that normally feed on diatoms, leading to concerns that it could spawn an alternate food chain lacking the predator fish people like to eat.  Many fisheries in the Arabian Sea are already on a slow decline. Eighty-five percent of fishermen surveyed in the fishing-dependent states of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra in India reported a smaller catch from 20 years and 12 years earlier, according to a 2014 study in the journal Oryx. Similarly, a rise in puffer fish off the coast of the Indian state of Kerala has been attributed to a crash in predator cobia fish since 2007, according to a 2013 study in Current Science. In Oman, the catch of large fish fell 18 percent in 2013 from the year before, the Times of Oman reported.
When Noctiluca isn't feasting on plankton, it grabs free energy from the millions of green algae living within its cells. (Joaquim Goes)
When Noctiluca isn't feasting on plankton, it grabs free energy from the millions of green algae living within its cells. (Joaquim Goes)
Whether Noctiluca or overfishing is to blame, one major factor stands out: massive sewage flows into the Arabian Sea as the coastal population has exploded. As the study authors point out, Mumbai's population has doubled to 21 million in the last decade. The region now sends 63 tons of nitrogen and 11 tons of phosphorus into the Arabian Sea each day. Karachi's 15 million people send 70 percent of their wastewater into the sea untreated. Much of the fertilizer used to boost yields on farms in South Asia also eventually washes into rivers that drain into the sea.
"All of these cities are growing so rapidly they don't have the capacity to treat their sewage," said study coauthor Joaquim Goes, a biogeochemist at Lamont-Doherty. "The amount of material being discharged is humongous."
From the Gulf of Mexico to Chesapeake Bay, dead zones and degraded fisheries are on the rise globally. Doubling in size each decade, and now covering more than 95,000 square miles, they are "probably a key stressor on marine ecosystems," according toa 2008 study in Science. Shifting ocean currents due to climate change can make the problem worse by dredging up nutrients from the ocean bottom.
The Arabian Sea fishery may already be in decline. In Goa, India, women sort through the morning catch. (Joaquim Goes)
The Arabian Sea fishery may already be in decline. In Goa, India, women sort through the morning catch. (Joaquim Goes)
In the Arabian Sea, stronger summer monsoon winds have boosted algae growth by bringing more nutrients from the deep ocean to the surface. In a2005 study in Science, Goes, Gomes and colleagues showed that biomass from summer blooms off Somalia, Yemen and Oman, jumped nearly 350 percent between 1997 and 2004. They hypothesize that receding snow cover in the Himalaya-Tibetan plateau is making the Indian subcontinent hotter in summer compared to the Arabian Sea, strengthening the winds that blow toward India, bringing up more nutrients off Somalia, Yemen and Oman.
The researchers expected gentler monsoon winds in winter, as the process reversed itself, leading to fewer algae blooms. But NASA satellite maps showed just the opposite: more winter blooms. After several years of sampling what they thought were sporadic Noctiluca blooms, the researchers realized in 2006 that the blooms seen from space were not diatoms but recurring Noctiluca blooms.
They wondered if falling oxygen levels could explain the diatom-to-Noctiluca shift. Sure enough, the experiments aboard theSagar Sampada seemed toconfirm their hypothesis.
The study has attributed much of Noctiluca's rise to growing sewage flows into the Arabian Sea, an intriguing connection that should be followed up on, says Andrew Juhl, a microbiologist at Lamont-Doherty who was not involved in the study. "It's unusual for Noctiluca to bloom in the open sea and return year after year," he said "All of these observations suggest that something dramatic has changed in the Arabian Sea."
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, Indian Space Research Organization and India's Council of Industrial Research. Other authors: Prabhu Matondkar, National Institute of Oceanography in Goa; Edward Buskey, University of Texas at Austin; Subhajit Basu, Goa University; Sushma Parab, Kent State University and Prasad Thoppil, Stennis Space Center.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rising CO2 Levels Will Intensify Phytoplankton Blooms in Eutrophic and Hypertrophic Lakes

Rising CO2 Levels Will Intensify Phytoplankton Blooms in Eutrophic and Hypertrophic Lakes


Harmful algal blooms threaten the water quality of many eutrophic and hypertrophic lakes and cause severe ecological and economic damage worldwide. Dense blooms often deplete the dissolved CO2 concentration and raise pH. Yet, quantitative prediction of the feedbacks between phytoplankton growth, CO2 drawdown and the inorganic carbon chemistry of aquatic ecosystems has received surprisingly little attention. Here, we develop a mathematical model to predict dynamic changes in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), pH and alkalinity during phytoplankton bloom development. We tested the model in chemostat experiments with the freshwater cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa at different CO2 levels. The experiments showed that dense blooms sequestered large amounts of atmospheric CO2, not only by their own biomass production but also by inducing a high pH and alkalinity that enhanced the capacity for DIC storage in the system. We used the model to explore how phytoplankton blooms of eutrophic waters will respond to rising CO2 levels. The model predicts that (1) dense phytoplankton blooms in low- and moderately alkaline waters can deplete the dissolved CO2concentration to limiting levels and raise the pH over a relatively wide range of atmospheric CO2conditions, (2) rising atmospheric CO2 levels will enhance phytoplankton blooms in low- and moderately alkaline waters with high nutrient loads, and (3) above some threshold, rising atmospheric CO2 will alleviate phytoplankton blooms from carbon limitation, resulting in less intense CO2 depletion and a lesser increase in pH. Sensitivity analysis indicated that the model predictions were qualitatively robust. Quantitatively, the predictions were sensitive to variation in lake depth, DIC input and CO2 gas transfer across the air-water interface, but relatively robust to variation in the carbon uptake mechanisms of phytoplankton. In total, these findings warn that rising CO2 levels may result in a marked intensification of phytoplankton blooms in eutrophic and hypertrophic waters.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Haida Salmon Restoration - Iron Fertilization experiment 2012

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Glacial Melt Pours Iron into Ocean, Seeding Algal Blooms

Glacial Melt Pours Iron into Ocean, Seeding Algal Blooms

The iron fertilizer from glacier melt may help feed plankton blooms that, in turn, suck carbon dioxide out of the sky
glacial melt

A decade ago, a common hypothesis was that rivers and dust supplied the ocean with most of its iron. Since then, scientists have reported in several papers that icebergs and deep-sea hydrothermal vents also may be significant contributors.
Credit: Andrew Bowden via Flickr
Call it natural geoengineering.
Scientists report in a new study this week that glacial melt may be funneling significant amounts of reactive iron into the ocean, where it may counter some of the negative effects of climate change by boosting algal blooms that capture carbon. The paper, published in Nature Communications, adds to a body of research suggesting that melting ice at both poles may have widespread consequences beyond rising sea levels.
"The theory goes that the more iron you add, the more productive these plankton are, and thus the more CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere in photosynthesis," said Jon Hawkings, a doctoral student at the University of Bristol and lead author of the study. "Plankton 'fix' CO2 much like trees."
The work could help improve climate models of the future and fill in data holes about major climate transitions and ice ages in the past, he said. The effects on Antarctica in particular will need additional examination, he said, as iron currently is limited in the Southern Ocean.
Hawkings and a research team from four United Kingdom-based universities tested meltwater collected from the Leverett glacier in Greenland during summer 2012 and detected large amounts of iron nanoparticles known as ferrihydrite. Ferrihydrite is considered to be "bioavailable" iron because it is easily used by plankton in lab experiments, Hawkings said.
Through the detected iron mineral levels in their samples, the team estimated that the flux of bioavailable iron into the ocean from glaciers currently is between 400,000 and 2.5 million metric tons annually from Greenland and up to 100,000 metric tons from Antarctica.
That means that polar regions may rival wind-blown dust as a source of ocean iron. The contribution from Greenland alone could range from 8 to 50 percent of the global ocean flux of bioavailable iron, Hawkings said.
The iron ore counter-effect
A decade ago, a common hypothesis was that rivers and dust supplied the ocean with most of its iron. Since then, scientists have reported in several papers that icebergs and deep-sea hydrothermal vents also may be significant contributors.
A study last year found that a Greenland glacier was releasing iron, but it did not assess as large an area and for as long of a period of time as his study, Hawkings said. The studied area of the Leverett glacier, for instance, is more than 600 kilometers squared, while earlier work assessed a glacier about 5 kilometers squared, he said.
"Our study is the first to date to follow a whole melt season and the first to have looked at a large glacial catchment," he said.
Matt Charette, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-author of an earlier paper on Greenland-supplied iron, said although the new study overlaps somewhat with his prior work, it provides new details.
"A case could be made that a larger system like the one they studied is more appropriate for scaling up to the entire ice sheet," he said.
Kenneth Coale, a scientist at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, said the paper was "nicely done" and added to understanding of how iron may provide a counter-effect to climate change.
The Greenland iron originates from stored subglacial meltwater that gets "flushed out" by surface waters carried through tunnels and cracks in ice during the melt season, Hawkings said. It's not fully understood how far the iron travels once in the ocean, but it likely stays near both poles. "Evidence exists for transport a few 100 kilometers out to sea, but only limited amounts will reach the open ocean," he said.
It's also not fully understood how the iron will interact with polar ecosystems. Scientists have long known that iron-fueled algae can eat up carbon, leading to speculation that iron fertilization might be a geoengineering option to cool the planet. It also holds the possibility of boosting marine life that feed on plankton. A community in Canada two years ago, for instance, dumped large amounts of iron dust into the ocean to try to boost salmon stocks.
In the case of "natural" iron fertilization via ice sheets, the positive likely outweighs the negative, in the sense that carbon will be removed in an area highly vulnerable to warming, and extra algae may help polar marine life threatened by warming, Hawkings said. He noted that algae can boost krill, which can in turn can feed fish, whales and seals.
However, he pointed to a report from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution documenting a range of potential problems with added iron and resulting algae in the ocean in general, such as depleting the ocean surface of other nutrients like nitrogen.
"In theory it's a good thing. However, there may be impacts on species diversity ... and decomposing plankton may use up oxygen in deeper waters, depriving other organisms of it as happens in rivers and lakes when you get an algal bloom," Hawkings said.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Psychotherapy for Plankton

Psychotherapy for Plankton

The scene: A diatom is out of its oceanic habitat and on a couch, talking to a therapist. The diatom is stressed. It can’t ever seem to get enough nutrients. And it’s feeling underappreciated ... 

Diatom: People just don’t seem to understand. Without me and all the other phytoplankton producing oxygen via photosynthesis, people wouldn’t have half the oxygen they need to breathe!  We’re also the base of the ocean food chain that supports the fish they eat, and all the carbon dioxide I take up from the air to make into my body would still be in the atmosphere, making the earth heat up. Why can’t they see how important I am?
Therapist: I’m hearing that you feel undervalued. Why do you think it is that people don’t understand?
Diatom: I suppose it’s because I’m so small. They can’t see me without a microscope, so I might as well not exist! But that’s not my main problem. I can go on fine without humans knowing how much they depend on me. The thing that’s really getting me down is all this stress I’m under. 
Therapist: Tell me what you mean. What’s causing this stress?
Diatom: Well, it’s a bit of a long story. I’ll start from the beginning. Since I do photosynthesis for a living, sunlight is my energy, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is my sustenance. But in order to grow, I need other ingredients, too, like nitrogen, iron, and vitamins. I use these ingredients in a specific ratio, just like a recipe. So, for example, even if there is plenty of nitrogen around in the ocean, unless there is also enough iron, I can’t grow. Whatever runs out first— that’s called a "limiting nutrient."
Therapist: I see. Why this is causing you such stress right now?
Diatom: So, I live in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The waters there have plenty of nitrogen for me to use, but there is almost never enough iron to go around. I have to compete with other phytoplankton for my iron, and I also have to compete with bacteria. It’s particularly annoying that I have to share this scarce resource with the bacteria, because the way theyget by in life is only through exploiting the carbon that we phytoplanktonmake for them. It just seems unfair!
Therapist: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me like there’s more to this story.
Diatom: Uh, I suppose. My relationship with those bacteria—well, it’s complicated. Even though they take that scarce iron from me when I need it most, I just can’t live without them. When the bacteria grow and die, they release vitamin B12 into the water. I need that B12 to grow. And just like iron, it’s in short supply relative to the other ingredients I need. Without enough of those bacteria growing, I can’t get enough vitamin B12. Without enough iron or B12, I get really stressed! It’s just a bad cycle.
Therapist: It seems almost like sibling rivalry. You and the bacteria are dependent on each other, but at the same time, you’re also competing with each other for iron. That’s quite a delicately balanced relationship you have to negotiate there in the Southern Ocean. What are some strategies you use to try to cope with this stress?
Diatom: Life really gets difficult for me when I start to get starved for iron or vitamin B12. First, I try harder to get these missing nutrients. I make more of proteins that I use to find and transport the iron or vitamin from the seawater into my cell. I also make more of the proteins that I need to move the iron or vitamin around inside my cell. This way, as soon as I find the nutrients I need, I’m ready to use them. 
Therapist:  These seem like good strategies. But what happens if they don’t work?
Diatom: Well, I try to get by with less of whatever I’m feeling starved for. Sometimes I can substitute some other nutrient for the scarce ones, but this doesn’t always work very well. I just can’t work as efficiently when I’m starved, but I can make do and grow more slowly for a while. If supplies of these nutrients are too low, I just won’t survive. You can see why this is causing me such anxiety.
Therapist: Yes, your reaction seems perfectly natural. Let’s try to think of ways to manage this stress.  Are there any ways you could predict what nutrients you are going to be starved for?
Diatom:  Well, I’m not sure. I know that oceanographers are looking into this, too. They want to know what nutrients starve me and the other phytoplankton. But they don’t seem much better than me at predicting which nutrients are limiting how much we can grow. Until a couple of years ago, the scientists weren’t even sure we could be limited by the lack of vitamin B12!
Therapist: That’s interesting. Go on.
Diatom: One way scientists find out about what controls our growth is to take some of us out of the ocean, put us in bottles, add different nutrients, and watch to see which make us grow faster. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because I know that being in a bottle can make us plankton respond to nutrients differently than we do growing in the ocean. There just has to be a better way.
Therapist: Yes, yes. But I’m afraid we are out of time; let’s pick this up again next session.
The following week.
Therapist: I did some research after last week’s session and found something that may help. It seems that some scientists are actually finding new ways to learn about what starves you phytoplankton. Really. The way they are doing this is by looking closely at changes in the way you grow when you are starved for specific nutrients, particularly vitamin B12. They are just learning how to measure those coping strategies you told me about last week. They have developed new technologies that allow them to detect and measure the proteins that organisms make when they are grown under different conditions. 
Diatom: Are you saying that ocean scientists think they can tell when we phytoplankton feel starved for B12 just by watching what kinds of proteins we make? They actually are interested enough in phytoplankton to make new methods to do this?
Therapist: That’s right. When the scientists grew some of you in the laboratory, they noticed that there were a few proteins that you make moreof when you are starved for the vitamin, but not when you are starved for other nutrients. They call these proteins “B12-starvation indicator proteins.” 
Diatom: They come up with fancy names, those scientists. If only they could learn how to measure those—what did they call them, B12 … starvation indicator proteins?—if only they could measure them in the ocean instead of just in the lab! If they did, they could figure out what controls all the patterns and processes that lead to us getting starved for vitamin B12. I’d sure love to know that. Then I could be prepared for the stress.  That would make life so much easier!
Therapist: I know that they are doing their best. In order to use these measurements to learn about what stresses you, the scientists will need to measure these proteins from within a very complex mixture of many thousands or even millions of other proteins in the ocean, and they must also be sure they understand why you make this protein. They are getting closer!
Diatom: Wow, that’s great news. I feel a little better already. It’s comforting to think that those scientists aren’t overlooking me and care so much about me and my stress!
This research was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship and an Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellowship, the WHOI Ocean Ventures Fund, the NSF Ocean Sciences Division and Office of Polar Programs, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
About the author: Erin Bertrand has worked to measure nutrient stress in diatoms in Mak Saito’s lab in the WHOI Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, as part of her research for her Ph.D. from the MIT/ WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography. She  has been interested in how the availability of metals in the environment affects microscopic organisms ever since she started conducting research as an undergraduate at Bates College. When she is not growing diatoms, extracting proteins, taking samples of phytoplankton in Antarctica, or running the mass spectrometer, she likes to hike or run in the woods, listen to live music, or cook something new for her friends and family. Her mentor on this article was Heather Goldstone, a science journalist for WCAI radio (and a graduate of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program).
By Erin Bertrand
MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography
Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Dept.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sampath Kumar wins award for Rechargeable Alkaline Zinc Battery

Sampath Kumar wins award for Rechargeable Alkaline Zinc Battery

Technology Refinement and Marketing Programme (TREMAP)
List of Final Stage Selection of Patents for
National Award to Commercializable Patents 2013-14

Sl. No.Patent Title
Name of Patent Holder
Patent Title No.
A nanosized electrochemical dispersion for rechargeable alkaline zinc batteries Sh. Thothathri Sampath Kumar 246506