INTERVIEW – In the BioSWOT-Med campaign, Magali Lescot is in charge of the WP5 on Genomics. She will collect samples to study the microbial community (viruses, bacteria, protists) to evaluate the patchiness of these plankton functional types and taxa and monitor the short term biogeochemical functional responses of the microbiome to the highly dynamic physical environment.
THE RESEARCH THEMES – Magali Lescot is a research engineer at CNRS (National center for scientific research – Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), in the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography located in Marseille (France). Her research focuses on plankton genome evolution and their adaptation to their environment. In the BioSWOT-Med campaign she’s in charge of the Working Group on Genomics.
In the BioSWOT-Med campaign you will collect samples to study the microbial community (viruses, bacteria, protists). What are the different hypotheses to explain their distribution and patchiness?
The distribution / patchiness of the microbial (plankton) community is driven by the environmental parameters and the ocean physics.
In the BioSWOT-Med campaign, we will test two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is the “fluid dynamical niches hypothesis” – Horizontal stirring can create a patchwork of water masses of different origin, in which contrasting phytoplankton communities can develop. Contact regions where many of these “fluid dynamical niches” are stirred together and eventually mix will turn into diversity hotspots.
The second one is the “biotic (top-down) hypothesis” – According to this hypothesis, the formation or dissipation of vertical thin layers of phytoplankton during stratification or mixing can markedly alter phytoplankton concentrations, encounter rates with grazers, and grazing losses, hence modulating community structure, diversity, and ultimately their biogeochemical functions.
You will be using a series of techniques called “omics”? What are they?
The “Omics” correspond to the disciplines such as genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, metagenomics or transcriptomics to study the molecules (such as the genes for genomics, transcripts for transcriptomics) for a cell, an organism or an ecosystem.
For example, the metabarcoding (amplification of gene markers, genomics) allows to decipher diversity in the microbial community by identifying multiple taxa simultaneously in a sample using DNA sequencing.
The sequencing of the microorganism expressed genes (transcriptome) will instead inform about the gene function and to what the microorganisms do at the moment we sampled them.