About this research group
Molecular Ecology laboratory aims to understand the dynamics in the marine ecosystem using a combination of state-of-the art traditional taxonomical and ecological methods, in a novel combination with high resolution meta-”omic” or environomic technology for biodiversity, trophic interaction and ecosystem state assessments.
The latter technologies include metagenome analysis to identify what species and which genes are present in the environmental samples. The use of microarray and metagenome sequencing technology will provide high throughput and resolution monitoring of biodiversity, while development of novel quantitative and qualitative methods will allow us to assess trophic interactions in situ in a way that has not been possible before. Development of both the major directions will heavily depend on the expertise of taxonomists, but once sequences have been associated with species, routine examination by taxonomists will be much less often required for the investigated area. An important part is also the institution of a taxonomic reference collection, where reference specimens are deposited.
Other environomic applications include meta-transcriptome and meta-metabolom approaches. By targeting genes associated with physiological stress, information about environmental condition can be inferred. This includes specific genes in model/indicator species but also a more general suit of organisms’ characteristic of a specific ecosystem. Knowledge about organic nutrients, chemicals and defence metabolites that directly mediate species-species interactions will help to predict plankton succession and could help to provide an early warning system for disturbed environments.
A more comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem response to anthropogenic stressors, e.g. oil extraction, will clearly demonstrate the specific actions that have to be taken in order to conduct an activity in sensitive marine areas.
One limitation in current marine research beyond prokaryotes has been the paucity of bona fide marine model organisms where molecular and genomic resources are combined with suitable life history characteristics allowing strong interaction between laboratory experiments, field studies and modeling. This is central to the research strategy of the molecular ecology laboratory and we are currently developing molecular detection and quantification assays in the laboratory to investigate the dynamics of trophic interactions in the field. The laboratory experiments incluide assay development, but also direct experimentation on the biology of trophic interactions as well as genome response to environmental cues. Many of the observations in the laboratory based experiments arre used in models where we generate hypotheses that can be tested in the field.