Title: Genomes and phenomes of individual cells in the ocean

Speaker: Dr Ramunas Stepanauskas, Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Single Cell Genomics Center, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, USA

Abstract: In this presentation I will review recent work performed by my group on the genome and phenome analyses of individual cells and extracellular genetic elements in the ocean, where unicellular microorganisms dominate ecosystem’s processes, biomass and biodiversity. In one example, a large-scale, randomized sequencing of genomes of thousands of individual prokaryoplankton cells from a global set of field samples is being utilized to analyze a wide range of marine microbiology’s questions. Those include the global coding potential and pangenome composition of prokaryoplankton lineages, the impact and rates of horizontal gene exchange, the frequency and types of infecting agents, and other phenomena. In another example, we are using fluorescent probing techniques for the measurement of oxygen respiration, polysaccharide uptake and secondary metabolite biosynthesis in the same, uncultured cells that are subject to genomic sequencing. In a third example, we have been developing novel methods for whole genome analyses of individual cells of fish and other vertebrates in the water column, which may improve and cut the cost of the monitoring of endangered and commercially important species. Together, these examples showcase new insights and opportunities offered by studies of individual cells and extracellular biological entities in their natural environment at ecologically relevant scales.

Bio: Dr Ramunas Stepanauskas was trained in biology and limnology at Vilnius University (Lithuania) and Uppsala University (Sweden) and obtained his PhD degree in Limnology from Lund University (Sweden). He completed two postdoctoral fellowships in Marine Sciences and Ecology at the University of Georgia. In 2005, Ramunas was hired as a senior research scientist by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, where he developed a research program focused on the ecology, evolution and biotechnological applications of environmental microorganisms. Notable achievements include pioneering the technology and infrastructure for microbial single cell genome and phenome analyses, discoveries of previously unrecognized carbon fixation processes in the ocean, and mapping of the coding potential of uncultured microorganisms that dominate Earth’s biosphere. In 2009, Ramunas founded Bigelow Laboratory’s Single Cell Genomics Center (SCGC), world’s first facility dedicated to genomic studies of individual microbial cells. Ramunas is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology.

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