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ThesisObserving microbial processes at the microscale with in situ technology(Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2019-02) Lambert, BennettMarine microbes are key drivers of biogeochemical transformations within the world’s oceans. Although seawater appears uniform at scales that humans often interact with and sample, the world that marine microbes inhabit can be highly heterogeneous, with numerous biological and physical processes giving rise to resource hotspots where nutrient concentrations exceed background levels by orders of magnitude. While the impact of this microscale heterogeneity has been investigated in the laboratory with microbial isolates and theoretical models, microbial ecologists have lacked adequate tools to interrogate microscale processes directly in the natural environment. Within this thesis I introduce three new technologies that enable interrogation of microbial processes at the microscale in natural marine communities. The IFCB-Sorter acquires images and sorts individual phytoplankton cells, directly from seawater, allowing studies exploring connections between the diversity of forms present in the plankton and genetic variability at the single-cell level. The In Situ Chemotaxis Assay (ISCA) is a field-going microfluidic device designed to probe the distribution and role of motility behavior among microbes in aquatic environments. By creating microscale hotspots that simulate naturally occurring ones, the ISCA makes it possible to examine the role of microbial chemotaxis in resource acquisition, phytoplankton-bacteria interactions, and host-symbiont systems. Finally, the Millifluidic In Situ Enrichment (MISE) is an instrument that enables the study of rapid shifts in gene expression that permit microbial communities to exploit chemical hotspots in the ocean. The MISE subjects natural microbial communities to a chemical amendment and preserves their RNA in a minute-scale time series. Leveraging an array of milliliter-volume wells, the MISE allows comparison of community gene expression in response to a chemical stimulus to that of a control, enabling elucidation of the strategies employed by marine microbes to survive and thrive in fluctuating environments. Together, this suite of instruments enables culture-independent examination of microbial life at the microscale and will empower microbial ecologists to develop a more holistic understanding of how interactions at the scale of individual microbes impact processes in marine ecosystems at a global scale.
ArticleA fluorescence-activated cell sorting subsystem for the Imaging FlowCytobot(John Wiley & Sons, 2016-10-17) Lambert, Bennett ; Olson, Robert J. ; Sosik, Heidi M.Recent advances in plankton ecology have brought to light the importance of variability within populations and have suggested that cell-to-cell differences may influence ecosystem-level processes such as species succession and bloom dynamics. Flow cytometric cell sorting has been used to capture individual plankton cells from natural water samples to investigate variability at the single cell level, but the crude taxonomic resolution afforded by the fluorescence and light scattering measurements of conventional flow cytometers necessitates sorting and analyzing many cells that may not be of interest. Addition of imaging to flow cytometry improves classification capability considerably: Imaging FlowCytobot, which has been deployed at the Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory since 2006, allows classification of many kinds of nano- and microplankton to the genus or even species level. We present in this paper a modified bench-top Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB-Sorter) with the capability to sort both single cells and colonies of phytoplankton and microzooplankton from seawater samples. The cells (or subsets selected based on their images) can then be cultured for further manipulation or processed for analyses such as nucleic acid sequencing. The sorting is carried out in two steps: a fluorescence signal triggers imaging and diversion of the sample flow into a commercially available “catcher tube,” and then a solenoid-based flow control system isolates each sorted cell along with 20 μL of fluid.
ArticlePond fractals in a tidal flat(American Physical Society, 2015-11-19) Cael, B. Barry ; Lambert, Bennett ; Bisson, KelseyStudies over the past decade have reported power-law distributions for the areas of terrestrial lakes and Arctic melt ponds, as well as fractal relationships between their areas and coastlines. Here we report similar fractal structure of ponds in a tidal flat, thereby extending the spatial and temporal scales on which such phenomena have been observed in geophysical systems. Images taken during low tide of a tidal flat in Damariscotta, Maine, reveal a well-resolved power-law distribution of pond sizes over three orders of magnitude with a consistent fractal area-perimeter relationship. The data are consistent with the predictions of percolation theory for unscreened perimeters and scale-free cluster size distributions and are robust to alterations of the image processing procedure. The small spatial and temporal scales of these data suggest this easily observable system may serve as a useful model for investigating the evolution of pond geometries, while emphasizing the generality of fractal behavior in geophysical surfaces.