The Chemistry of Microbiomes: Marine Seminar

The Chemistry of Microbiomes
Marine Seminar

October 19, 2016 from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm


Keck Center of the National Academies
Room 100
500 5th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001


Webcast viewers: if you would like to ask the speakers a question during the discussion section, please either tweet @NASEM_Chem or email


The Academies’ Chemical Sciences Roundtable invites you to join the second in a series of seminars that will focus on the role of chemistry in Marine system microbiomes—the collections of bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit essentially every conceivable environment.  This session will focus on the microbiomes in marine environments.  Speakers will discuss the vast array of chemicals that control the interactions between microbiomes, their living hosts, and the surrounding environment. It is well known that these molecules catalyze a broad range of chemical reactions responsible for maintaining ecosystem and human health, but there is still much to learn.


Please see speakers and biographies below. Speakers are in order of the agenda.

Future seminars will each focus on microbiome systems in humans (November 9; registration now open); and the interactions across all environments (December 7).




hayMark Hay, Georgia Tech

Mark Hay is the Teasley Professor of Environmental Biology, a Regents Professor, and founder and co-director of the Center for Aquatic Chemical Ecology at Georgia Tech.   He is a marine ecologist known for his work on chemical and community ecology.  His research focuses most heavily on understanding the structure and function of marine communities and ecosystems and the role that chemical cues and signals play in the interactions affecting the resilience or degradation of natural communities, especially coral reefs.  Much of his research has been focused on larger organisms where manipulative experiments in the field can be used to rigorously test ecological principles and to separate cause, effect, and the mechanisms involved.  Many of the mechanisms controlling critical interactions are chemically-mediated, which should not be surprising given that most organisms have neither eyes nor ears and so must use chemical cues and signals to sense and interact with the world around them.  This is especially true for microbial ecology, where all behaviors must be chemical mediated to some degree.  He has recently initiated collaborations with marine microbiologists and genomics researchers to begin similar investigations focused on understanding the roles of chemical signals and cues in mediating interactions among microbes and among macro-organism and multitude of commensal microbes with which they live (their microbiomes).  Chemical cues constitutes the “language of microbes.” Hay and his collaborators are focused on interpreting and understanding this language as a means of gaining ecological and evolutionary insight into microbial processes and the cascading impacts of microbes on macro-organisms.


saitoMak Saito, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Mak Saito is an Associate Scientist in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His research group develops and deploys new methods to enable the study of biogeochemical cycles in the oceans and their influence on Earth’s climate and habitability, with a focus on metal and vitamin nutrition in marine phytoplankton and microbial communities. He has studied the influence and cycling of cobalt, iron, nickel, cadmium, zinc, vitamin B12, and macronutrients on microbial communities throughout the oceans, from the Ross Sea of Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean and through geologic time. His research group has contributed to the understanding of co-limitation in marine microbes and phytoplankton and has described the importance of vitamin B12 as a co-limiting nutrient in the Southern Ocean. In recent years, his laboratory has developed novel methods to investigate the proteomes of microbes as a means to characterize ecosystem function and biogeochemical processes, developing protein biomarkers as indicators of nutritional stress in microbial communities. His research team has also been developing methods to discover novel metalloenzymes in the marine microbes and pathogens.

Saito received his B.S. at Oberlin College, his Ph.D in the MIT-Woods Hole Joint Program in Chemical Oceanography with James Moffett and Penny Chisholm, and conducted Post-Doctoral research at Princeton University with François Morel. He has participated in 20 research expeditions, including being Chief Scientist and Expedition Leader on seven oceanic and sea ice expeditions, and has authored over 80 publications. He was a recipient of the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, was named a National Academy of Scientists Kavli Fellow, and is currently a Gordon and Betty Moore Marine Microbial Investigator. He is currently leading the development of an NSF EarthCube Ocean Protein Portal to facilitate data sharing of protein data and the study of changes in ocean metabolism across time and space.


repetaDaniel Repeta, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Dan Repeta is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  His research explores the interactions between microbial communities and dissolved organic matter in the marine water column, most recently at Station ALOHA, a long term study site in the oligotrophic North Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.  The oceans present unique challenges to studying the chemistry of microbiomes, and a key aspect of Dr. Repeta’s research has been the development of new analytical approaches to characterize and track organic nutrients at the molecular level.  Dr. Repeta was an investigator in the Center for Microbial Oceanography Research and Education (C-MORE), an NSF-STC designed to explore new concepts in marine microbial cycling, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative (GBMF-MMI), and was a founding member of the Simons Foundation Collaborative on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE), a new initiative to study energy and mass flux through marine microbial ecosystems.

Click here to read more about the organizing committee for this seminar series.


Follow the conversations: #CSRMicrobiome and #CSRMarine


All of the seminars will be recorded and archived here on the website for future viewings.