Science Plan (proposal June 22, 2004)

International Census of Marine Microbes

Science Plan

Mitchell L. Sogin

Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution
The Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole MA 02543 USA

J.W. de Leeuw

The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)
P.O. Box 59
1790 AB Den Burg
The Netherlands


1. Executive summary:

Microbes of untold diversity in marine environments are the primary catalysts of energy transformation, and are responsible for > 98% of the carbon and nitrogen cycling [1]. An estimated 3.6 x 10^30 microbial cells with cellular carbon of ~3 x 1017 grams may account for more than 90 percent of the total oceanic biomass [2]. The number of bacteriophage and viruses may be one hundred-fold higher. With such enormous populations, the accumulation of mutations should lead to very high levels of genetic diversity and phenotypic variation. Yet, traditional microbiological methods have described only 30,000 protists [3-5] and fewer than 5000 kinds of prokaryotes [6].

Today we are witness to a revolution in microbiology. Just as the first microscopes unveiled an unseen microbial world, the use of molecular techniques to enumerate different kinds and numbers of single-cell organisms has forever changed perceptions of the natural world. Microbial diversity is at least 100-1000 times greater than estimates based upon cultivation-dependent surveys [7]. Comparisons of genome sequences from cultivated and naturally occurring microbial populations reveal unanticipated levels of metabolic diversity and suggest new modes and mechanisms for evolutionary change. Microbes account for the preponderance of life's genetic and metabolic variation, but our understanding of microbial diversity and the evolution of its population structures in the oceans is only fragmentary.

To develop a description of biodiversity in the oceans, the Census of Marine Life (CoML) must look beyond metazoa and plants. It must develop a strategy to (1) catalogue all known diversity of single-cell organisms inclusive of the Bacteria, Archaea, Protista and associated viruses, (2) to explore and discover unknown microbial diversity, and (3) to place that knowledge into appropriate ecological and evolutionary contexts. Several existing or proposed CoML field projects including CeDAMar, ChEss, MAR-ECO, GoMA, NaGISA, CMarZ, Reefs, Arctic, Antarctic, Sea Mounts etc. either have microbial initiatives or the potential to develop microbial-based projects. Yet, there is no global effort to acquire information about diversity and distribution of microbes and associated viruses from the three domains of life in the World's oceans. This proposal describes an International Census of Marine Microbes (ICoMM). It will advocate for and coordinate investigations of microbial diversity (Bacterial, Archaeal, Protistan and Viral) and their population structures in marine environments. ICoMM will have five major activities. The first is to support scientific working groups. These will focus on (1) open ocean and coastal systems, (2) benthic systems, and (3) technology that is specifically required for a microbial census. The second is to develop the database resource MICROBIS, which will organize morphological, molecular and contextual information for marine microbial diversity within a framework that integrates into OBIS. The third is to provide resources that can facilitate and coordinate requests for research support from governmental and private foundations. The fourth is to facilitate education and outreach of ICoMM to make it visible to the general public and raise awareness of its goals. Finally, ICoMM will support pilot projects that have the potential to shape larger-scale research initiatives in marine microbial diversity.

To be successful, ICoMM must promote international cooperation and forge linkages with existing and new CoML field projects for collecting samples, contextual information and new technologies. At the same time, ICoMM must engage the broader community of microbiologists with collateral interests in microbial diversity, evolution, biogeography and their functional roles in marine systems.

2. Uncharted Diversity of Marine Microbes: The Known, Unknown and Unknowable.

Communities of Bacteria, Archaea, and Protists account for greater than 90 percent of oceanic biomass and 98 percent of primary production [1, 2]. Stable isotopes studies reveal that for more than three billion years, these microscopic factories "initially anaerobic and later aerobic" mediated biogeochemical processes that shaped planetary habitability [8]. Today the oceans world-wide are teeming with microscopic and macroscopic life forms. Rich, chemosynthetic microbial communities thrive at deep-sea hydrothermal vents [9]. Abundant Archaea populate oceanic midwaters [10]. Very large populations of picoplankton including diatoms, dinoflagellates, picoflagellates and cyanobacteria are the primary catalysts in carbon fixation [11], orchestrate the cycling of nitrogen [12] and form the base of the traditional marine food web. Heterotrophic SAR11 represents the dominant clade in communities of ocean-surface bacterioplankton [13] while nonphotosynthetic protists of unknown diversity control the size of picoplankton populations and regulate the supply of nutrients into the ocean's food webs.

Amazing advances in microbiology over the past fifty years force us to think in terms of ever shifting boundaries between what is known, unknown and unknowable about single-cell organisms. In the late 60's, microbiologists had lost hope of constructing a robust natural system for microbial taxa. New molecular techniques developed during the 1970's opened pathways for establishing microbial phylogenetic relationships that were unknowable using traditional techniques (comparisons of phenotypic characters such as morphology, staining properties, metabolic capabilities, and physiology) . Modern technologies (molecular techniques, automated fluorescence cell sorting, etc.) have demonstrated the great abundance and diversity of microbial life forms in the oceans, and DNA sequencing of environmental genomes (metagenomics) provides evidence of hitherto unrecognized physiological categories among the planktonic microbes. With the acceptance of the significance of microbial food webs in the 1980's [14, 15] and discoveries of microbial mediated biogeochemical cycles, oceanographers recognized the pivotal role of microbial communities as catalysts in oceanic processes. Biologists reached the profound conclusion that the continued survival of all multi-cellular life is contingent upon complex microbial communities of under-described and possibly unknowable diversity.

If we are to assemble a comprehensive description of marine biodiversity and the processes that shape habitats for multi-cellular life, we must determine what kinds of microorganisms occur in benthic and planktonic open ocean and coastal systems. For the traditional alpha taxonomist, a "kind" of organism is comparable to the concept of OTUs (Operational Taxonomic Units) for describing animal and plant species. Based upon traditional methods, the number of recognized microbial OTUs is almost trivial when compared to estimates of 106 to 108 species for marine fauna. T his modest assessment of microbial diversity is not consistent with a 3.5 billion-year evolutionary history during which microbes have developed an enormous metabolic repertoire to cope with Earth's dynamic environment. In contrast, culture-independent descriptions for the microbial world, which rely upon comparisons of homologous genes (phylotypes), reveal a much richer diversity. Sequence comparisons of polymerase chain reaction products (PCR amplicons) that target phylogenetically conserved regions of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) coding regions, demonstrates that microbial diversity ranges from 105 to greater than 107 kinds of organisms [7]. Traditional microbiology has failed to culture more than 99.9 percent of these newly discovered "phylotypes" from marine environments. Using this powerful technology, the microbiologist can also make distinctions between cells with identical morphologies and enumerate differences in community structure between microbial populations. Despite the impact of new information provided by the molecular biology toolbox, traditional techniques must not be abandoned since it is within this context that our understanding of marine microbial ecology has developed.

The hallmark of microbial diversity is biochemical innovation that single-gene studies cannot fully describe. Within the next few years, molecular biology will allow us to incorporate a definition for functional capacity or inducible phenotype in descriptors of microbial diversity [16, 17]. Microbiologists are able to identify the occurrence of a particular functional or structural gene and exploit it as a marker of diversity within an isolate or for members of a naturally occurring microbial population. In a similar manner, post genomic technology can measure gene expression patterns as a means to differentiate between "kinds" of microorganisms. As a direct consequence of increased activity in marine metagenomics, the combination of high-throughput DNA sequencing, expression profiling and proteomics can describe new traits, novel functions, and unusual enzymes in microbial populations. In some cases, entirely new phyla with novel functions are being discovered [18]. These aid in understanding the evolution of life in this ancestral habitat and lead to sounder descriptions of new communities and species. Sequencing data will also be wedded to newly emerging molecular assays that incorporate automated sampling technologies and which will lead to finer temporal and spatial resolution of molecular diversity. If advances in genome technology and bioinformatics continue on the current trajectory, sequence scans of entire genomes or communities of genomes [19] coupled with high-throughput gene expression or proteomic profiles may become the standard for defining diversity and monitoring distribution patterns for microbial species.

To fully understand microbial marine diversity it is important to integrate sequence-based studies with phylogenetically-rich information from isotopic analyses and characterizations of metabolic and biosynthetic products. For example, isotopic analyses have pinpointed lipids produced by novel Archaea that oxidize methane anaerobically [20]. Follow-up investigations at sites rich in these products have revealed abundant new phylotypes that are related to methanogens [21]. The abundance of carbon-14 and carbon-13 in lipids produced by planktonic Archaea [22] proves that those organisms are assimilating large amounts of inorganic carbon from the ocean's midwaters and must be growing as autotrophs. Unprecedented lipid structures have been traced to previously unknown planctomycetes and the long-sought capability for anaerobic oxidation of ammonia. These are just a few examples of the novel insights that can be achieved when molecular and biochemical information are combined.

3. International Census of Marine Microbes

3.1 Objectives

This proposal implements recommendations that are relevant to CoML objectives as outlined in the document Unveiling the Ocean's hidden majority: a roadmap. The most general statement of ICoMM's goal is to develop a highly-resolved biodiversity database for marine microbes and to understand how these populations evolve and redistribute on a global scale. Beginning with Haeckel's reports from the Challenger expedition of over 100 years ago [23], traditional microbiological approaches have made important contributions to our knowledge of microbial eukaryotes too numerous to recount here, but little about Bacteria or Archaea. Most of what we must learn about microbial diversity in the oceans will depend upon the application of molecular techniques. Early molecular studies of marine microbial diversity only considered the Archaea and the Bacteria [24-27]. Recent molecular-based searches have already identified novel eukaryotic lineages in the water column and in warm anoxic sediments [28, 29]. Combined with fluorescence in situ hybridization technologies (FISH), it is already possible to associate novel, molecular-based lineages with specific morphologies. Efforts should be made to bring newly discovered key taxa into culture for more detailed investigations. One of our challenges is to create a bridge to expertise of the past.

Knowing what "kinds" of organisms exist within a marine microbial population and how community structure changes in response to environmental shifts are high priorities for ICoMM. Sampling strategies and the collection of contextual information will be important elements of this census. For example, culture-independent surveys reveal unanticipated numbers of distinct phylotypes in the benthos and plankton of open ocean and coastal waters. In contrast, deep-sea vents separated by thousands of miles sometimes display lower levels of diversity [27] but often harbor anaerobic thermophiles that have nearly identical rRNA sequences, even though these organisms have not been detected in open ocean waters. Mechanisms that might explain this biogeographical distribution will require studies of chemically-similar vent environments and strategically located, intermediate stations. The high-throughput DNA sequencing of environmental shotgun libraries from an oligotrophic, low diversity environment [19], provides another lesson about the importance of sampling strategies. This landmark study shows that current de-facto standards of a few hundred to a few thousand sequences for PCR amplicons of conserved genetic elements e.g. rRNA coding regions- cannot fully describe microbial diversity. A more complete accounting of diversity will dictate significant increases in data collection. But this comes at a considerable cost both in terms of reagents and in analytical efforts. To maximize the science return from such costly, high-throughput studies, marine microbiologists must identify the most important questions to be addressed and the best study sites and strategies for obtaining unambiguous answers.

The historical events and underlying mechanisms that led to contemporary microbial diversity are mostly uncharted (exceptions might include the marine foraminifera). The goals of ICoMM include cataloguing and discovery, but must extend to an understanding of the processes by which marine microbial diversity has been created and is maintained. Genome-based studies suggest that large-scale genetic exchange corresponding to tens of thousands of base pairs from unknown genetic sources can occur over timescales required by microbes to adapt to shifts in environmental chemistry. Stunningly, we have only scratched the surface of marine environments but already learned that the correct conceptual framework for describing the dynamics of metagenome evolution and shifts in diversity might not yet be known. Some of the fundamental questions that we must address and molecular approaches make this possible include:

1)        How many kinds of microorganisms exist in marine environments and what governs the evolution of microbial lineages within complex microbial communities?
2)        Why do complex microbial consortia retain functionally equivalent but genetically distinct lineages rather than selecting for a single "winner" with an optimal suite of metabolic activities?
3)        Does the diversity of a microbial guild relate to the stability of its functioning?
4)        Is there a biogeography for distinct microbial lineages and, if so, what are the principal drivers or restrictors? What genomic changes, if any, are associated with relocation of dormant organisms over large distances?
5)       How widespread is horizontal gene transfer and does it completely obliterate phylogenetic patterns for microbes? Do viruses mediate this process?
6)      Do chemical environments select for lineages endowed with particular metabolic capabilities, or does the unit of selection correspond to individual genes that can transfer particular metabolic functions between lineages?
7)     What accounts for large-scale genetic variation in microbial genomes that share a very recent common ancestry? Is there a cryptic source of genetic information that selectively invades microbial genomes, or are there undocumented mechanisms that can rapidly generate novel coding capacity within a bacterial chromosome?
8)     How does genotypic diversity shape phenotypic diversity, and how does this diversity influence the functioning of ecosystems?

When coupled with a larger genomic context, the interpretation of data from molecular-based field studies will challenge even the most advanced genetic algorithms and evolutionary theory. This enterprise will demand interdisciplinary efforts to explore the dynamics of microbial population biology, genome diversity, and the metabolic basis of biogeochemical processes.

3.2 Strategy

Unlike CoML initiatives that focus upon geographical locations (e.g. Arctic, Antarctic, GoMA, MAR-ECO, NaGISA, POST, TOPP etc.), or restricted environments (e.g. ChEss, Seamounts, CeDAMAR, etc.), ICoMM will embrace a world-wide strategy to explore the diversity and distribution patterns of all kinds of single-cell organisms in marine environments. Understanding the diversity of marine microbes is a mega-science problem that requires new approaches to mapping diversity, grand strategies, integration of diverse communities, and enabling studies that will explore processes "whether ecological or evolutionary."  The community of marine microbiologists that must participate in this enterprise is diverse but they do not yet form a unified community. A problem of this magnitude requires careful planning and international cooperation. Because we know so little about the limits of microbial diversity or whether biogeographical distribution patterns exist for microorganisms, major advances will occur by 2010 albeit complete descriptions may require decades of research.

To address the key scientific questions outlined above (3a. Objectives), ICoMM must seek community consensus about research priorities and an integrated experimental plan. Unification of this discipline will require the development of shared, enabling technologies and standardized measurements in the same way that DNA sequencing and "bar coding" has provided a common means to index metazoan and plant biodiversity. Constituents of ICoMM must agree upon sampling regimes and mechanisms for sharing samples, contextual information and new data with the scientific community. We must determine how to bring together the existing molecular data into a single framework/synthesis or establish coding standards that promote electronic exchange of information including close ties with OBIS. An important goal will be to make data from ICoMM readily accessible to process oriented interest in microbial oceanography. It will be especially important to form alliances with relevant CoML and other marine microbiology initiatives. For example, ICoMM's advisory board and working groups include participants from ChEss, CeDAMar and GoMA. Because of overlapping interests in certain protist groups, ICoMM has agreed to cooperate with CMarZ in development of programmatic infrastructure. Preliminary discussions are also underway to establish a Protistan focus Group at the interface of both programs. Other collaborative activities will include participation in the European Union projects BASICS (Bacterial single-cell approaches to the relationship between diversity and function in the sea coordinated by J. Gasol, CSIC, Barcelona, Spain), MIRACLE (Microbial Marine Communities Stability: from Culture to Function, coordinated by Francisco Romero, Inst Biomar, Spain), PICODIV (Monitoring Biodiversity of Pico-Phytoplankton in Marine Waters, coordinated by Daniel Vaulot, Brest France), ALIENS (Algal Introductions to European Shores, coordinated by Jose M. Rico Ordas, Univ. Oviedo, Spain), MARBEF (Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning, coordinated by Carlo Heip), EurOcean (coordinated by Paul Treguer, IFREMER Brest and Louis Legendre, Lab Oceanographique Villefranche sur mer, France) and participation in the several U.S. programs including the NSF Research Coordination Network "Seamount Biogeosciences Network" submitted by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the NIH/NSF funded Center of Oceans and Human Health at Woods Hole (organized by John Steggeman at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), the NSF RIDGE 2000 initiative, and international collaborations i.e. the MBL and the Alfred Wegener Institute joint effort to develop the WEB resource plankton*net. Finally, ICoMM must set an agenda to guide the development of funding strategies and provide support for pilot projects that have the potential to generate additional support from governmental agencies and private foundations. Upon receipt of initial funding in the Fall of 2004, ICoMM's first task will be to formalize collaborative relationships with ongoing CoML programs, relevant European and US initiatives including the Sorcer II expedition, and other existing projects that contribute towards ICoMM's objectives. The scope of ICoMM's activities by 2010 will be proportional to available resources from foundations and governmental funding agencies. An attached supplement provides cost estimates based upon different kinds of measurements applied to different sampling regimes. The dynamic range of these cost estimates is admittedly enormous and it is clear that the marine microbiology community must establish priorities for initial funding. The total resource requirement ranges from tens of millions of dollars to NASA-size efforts costing multiple billions of dollars.  None of these projections takes into account efficiencies that we should expect from advances in technology. It is entirely reasonable to expect that the cost of molecular analyses will drop by one or two orders of magnitude over the next decade.

3.3. Organization of ICoMM

The MBL will be the lead organization and will support a Secretariat, a small administrative staff, and a computational biology group charged with development of the ICoMM data base MICROBIS (see below). NIOZ & NIOO-CEME in The Netherlands will fund a European coordinator and will employ a data base specialist who will integrate data from our international collaborators into MICROBIS. The MBL and NIOZ & NIOO-CEME formed a partnership in the preparation of this proposal. The Secretariat will coordinate ICoMM activities including setting agendas, developing a community-driven database, and providing support (financial and organizational) for meetings of ICoMMâ™s constituency.

ICoMM will coordinate scientific activities through a multi-tiered interface that will engage the general marine microbiology community, ICoMMâ™s specialized working groups and its Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Three working groups (Open ocean and coastal systems, Benthic systems, and Technology) willconsider the science questions posed under 3.1 Objectives as they develop a plan to address the challenges outlined under 3.2. The working groups for Benthic systems and for the Water column will consider the current status of the field, the most promising approaches for exploring marine microbial diversity, sampling requirements and potential obstacles. The Technology working group will be cross-cutting and will consider issues that overlap with the other two working groups. Their primary charge is to determine what kinds of methods and which targeted genes will be most appropriate for meeting ICoMMâ™s scientific objectives. They will also evaluate alternative methods for sample processing, standards for data collection and data sharing.

Collectively, the three working groups will propose objectives, agendas and resource requirements for consideration by the SAC, which will guide and monitor development of ICoMM activities. These interactions will provide guidance for a broader community of representative marine microbiologists who will meet at least annually in order to move ICoMMâ™s agenda forward. Members of the ICoMM Secretariat and the SAC will review funding requests associated with the preparation of research proposals including either financial support or DNA sequencing support for small-scale pilot projects. Examples of four such projects are provided in the Appendix.

The division of labor into the three working groups allows us to be inclusive of the taxa to be studied and addresses fundamental differences between the benthos and the water column that will impact experimental design and processing of data. Separate working groups for the Benthos and the Water Column face different challenges in surveys of microbial diversity. The communities of organisms that inhabit these environments have different compositions and structures. The physical environments are dissimilar and different nutrient and energy pathways drive each of these systems. Chemosynthetic energy and heterotrophy dominate the Benthos, whereas photosynthesis drives Open ocean and coastal water systems. There are fundamental differences in the physical stability, scale and patchiness and therefore sampling protocols for the two types of habitats will be different. Even the extraction of biopolymers requires alternative technologies for samples collected from the benthos versus open ocean and coastal waters (water column samples). In general, we have a clearer understanding of the microbiology and physical parameters of open ocean and coastal waters, where the systems complexity is lower and the technology demands are better developed. The evaluation of benthic diversity poses special problems associated with differentiating between organisms that are endemic versus the introduction of cells that normally live closer to the surface via sedimentary processes.

3.4 Membership of Secretariat, SAC and Working Groups.


Scientific Advisory Council (SAC)

PI: Mitchell L. Sogin MBL    John Baross Univ. Wash.
Co PI: Jan W. de Leeuw NIOZ Robert Anderson Bigelow
Secretariat /EPO Linda Amaral-Zettler MBL Edward DeLong MIT
Co-I Stefan Schouten NIOZ Victor Ariel Gallardo Univ. of Conc.
Co-I Gerhard Herndl NIOZ Antje Boetius MPI
Co-I Lucas Stal NIOO Carlos Pedros-Alio ICM
Co-I David J. Patterson MBL Francisco Rodriguez-Valera UMH


Working Groups

Open ocean and coastal systems


Benthic systems



David Karl


Andreas Teske


Rudi Amann

Steve Giovanonni


Katrina Edwards


Chris Scholin

Daniel Vaulot


Steve Dâ™Hondt


Eric Mather

Curtis Suttle


David M. Paterson


Robert Friedman

Peter Burkhill


Jim Prosser


Michael Kuhl

Penny Chisholm


Anna-Louise Reysenbach



ICoMM will support the development and maintenance of MICROBIS, which is a distributed knowledge resource that provides systematic and biogeographic information for marine viruses, archaea, bacteria, photosynthetic eukaryotes and heterotrophic protists. The design of MICROBIS allows it to integrate seamlessly with OBIS and it takes advantage of the MBLâ™s development effort for construction of the image-rich WEB resource, micro*scope. Using the MBLâ™s star*model for sharing distributed information about microbial diversity between different WEB portals, micro*scope currently integrates information from plankton*net, a network of distributed information that includes collaborators in Japan, Australia, Germany, France, Norway, Denmark and the US. Plankton*net seeks to develop encyclopedic knowledge resources for marine phytoplankton (e.g. http://e-bck.rd.awi-bremerhaven.de/protist/baypaul/microscope/general/page_01.htm or http://www.sb-roscoff.fr/baypaul/microscope/general/page_01b.htm). Web sites using the star*template derived from micro*scope are assembled quickly and allow distributed teams to work co-operatively to create resources of a grand scope and scale.  The Data Model meets inter-operability requirements of OBIS and of other major databases (e,g., TreeBase, GenBank, the Ribosomal Database Project, the European RISSC, MIRACLE etc.). Records will include names and latitude and longitude information, will be annotated with Dublin core, ISO and TDWG-SDD - metadata standards, and incorporate DiGIR and SOAP-based protocols to promote cross-resource indexing, search and retrieval.

MICROBIS will employ a Distributed Workgroup Environment to enable a diverse community of users to manage unprecedented volumes of largely molecular data; as well as developing scaleable and flexible internet services that will allow many users to contribute to, access, organize and package information to suit the needs of a diverse community of users. Integration relies heavily on the TNS system developed at the MBL/WHOI library to emulate taxonomy within internet services. TNS exploits the universal system of metadata ⓠthe names and the classification of organisms ⓠthat has been applied to most biological information, and uses this to organize and index information locally and remotely, to create taxon-specific links between data sources, to promote inter-operability by standardizing the names in previously independent databases, or to provides services that will mark up documents with taxonomic metadata and catalogue the resources. TNS is developed in close compliance with the International Union of Biological Sciences Taxonomic Database Working Group (TDWG).

To enable the international community to contribute descriptive information into a communal knowledge repository about marine microbes, the repository will include, the names, synonyms, taxonomic authorities, descriptions, images, references, web sites, distribution, ecology, dynamic links on all marine microbes.  This system will share resources with micro*scope and plankton*net.

5. Education and Outreach

The outreach and education components of ICoMM are important. The lack of familiarity with the diversity and significance of microbial communities demands that we make a strategic and targeted commitment to education and outreach. Our proposed Education and Outreach activities include two objectives: 1) to raise community awareness of ICoMM; 2) to provide resources that will underpin the education of marine microbiology in schools and universities. We will work closely with the Office of Marine Programs at the University of Rhode Island (URI_OMP) and draw on their experience of existing CoML projects to implement the ICoMM education and outreach strategy. That strategy will take advantage of new informatics initiatives. We will use MICROBIS to open up access to resources across the ICoMM program narrowing the gap between researchers and consumers of knowledge.  Working with the MLER (Microbial Life Educational Resources) project that has been funded through the NSF National Science Digital Library program, we will generate a library of digital educational resources with models for how those resources may be embedded in K-12 and undergraduate educational packages.  This will be based on the model already developed for the geosciences (http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/index.html).

We will provide to URI_OMP the necessary imagery, content, text, and out-link bundles for CoML portal subprojects.  Our outreach liaison officer (Linda Amaral-Zettler) will become a member of the CoML Education and Outreach network and has already developed contacts with Sara Hickox.  Our budget will ensure attendance at annual meetings. We will add customized access to the resources of the micro*scope, plankton*net, and MLER web-sites to each area of the CoML portal. The web-based knowledge environments micro*scope and plankton*net are discussed above while MLER is summarized below. We will add educational resources and special navigational pathways to MICROBIS to the â˜Partner Resources♠page.  Finally we will hold our own facilitation workshops, and/or link with existing workshops being developed at the MBL in the context of other programs.

We are well positioned to do this.  The team is committed to outreach and education includes participation in the Microbial Diversity course at the MBL, teacher education workshops (MBL) and the Astrobiology Education and Outreach program.  We have biodiversity informatics initiatives that will improve access to resources; and we are actively involved in educational research programs funded by the NSF.

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