New Portable Tool Analyzes Microbes in the Environment

Imagine a device that could swiftly analyze microbes in oceans and other aquatic environments, revealing the health of these organisms – too tiny to be seen by the naked eye – and their response to threats to their ecosystems. Rutgers researchers have created just such a tool, a portable device that could be used to assess microbes, screen for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and analyze algae that live in coral reefs. Their work is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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How microbes reflect the health of coral reefs

Microorganisms play important roles in the health and protection of coral reefs, yet exploring these connections can be difficult due to the lack of unspoiled reef systems throughout the global ocean. A collaborative study led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Centro de Investigaciones Marinas – Universidad de La Habana (CIM-UH) compared seawater from 25 reefs in Cuba and the U.S. Florida Keys varying in human impact and protection, and found that those with higher microbial diversity and lower concentrations of nutrients and organic carbon—primarily caused by human activities—were markedly healthier.

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Red Algae Thrive Despite Ancestor’s Massive Loss of Genes

You’d think that losing 25 percent of your genes would be a big problem for survival. But not for red algae, including the seaweed used to wrap sushi. An ancestor of red algae lost about a quarter of its genes roughly one billion years ago, but the algae still became dominant in near-shore coastal areas around the world, according to Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Debashish Bhattacharya, who co-authored a study in the journal Nature Communications.

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