Although over looked by the majority of SCUBA divers and snorkelers due to their size, Foraminifera (forams) are one of the most widespread marine calcifiers globally and geologically. Ranging from a quarter of a millimeter to four centimeters these prolific marine calcifying single-celled organisms (protozoan) predominate the shallow water benthic area by their numbers and often contribute significantly to the beautiful sand we associate to tropical beaches. Besides being micro-paleontological thermometers of past climates, or important biological indicators of reef health, they are also ideal model organisms to understand how future climatic and oceanographic changes will affect essential physiological and calcification processes. That is exactly why we are hunting for forams, specifically Amphistegina lessonii (Photo 1). We aim to place these species in a two-factor (increased temperature and pCO2) crossed mesocosm experiment set up in the MAREE aquarium at ZMT in collaboration with Prof. Justin Ries from Northwestern University, Boston, for 6 weeks. For a foram this is equivalent to the life span of 10 human years. Afterwards, we will work with Bernhard Blank-Landeshammer and Prof. Albert Sickmann from the Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS, Dortmund) to study the proteomic response of the experimental treatments. This work will give great insight into the cellular response and potential acclimatisation mechanisms to future climatic stress in reef organisms.
Why hunt for forams in Eilat, Israel? For many reasons: firstly the scientists working there have a wealth of knowledge, which we were fortunate enough to attend a presentation from an IUI alumnus (Dr. Ruth Reef) now working in Cambridge University, UK, about her work on mangrove distribution and niche mutations (Photo 2). Secondly, the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) is not only a scientifically important research station, but located adjacent to one of the most northern tropical reefs in the world (Photo 3). It also experiences some of the most extreme salinity, temperature, and oligotrophic conditions with a remarkably healthy and productive reef. This draws the question of what makes theses communities and populations so resilient? From the cellular level, we plan to answer these questions.
We wish to thank the wonderful hospitality at IUI who made our short but successful field trip run smoothly from start to finish, especially Prof. Amatzia Genin and Prof. Maoz Fine.
Marleen Stuhr & Dr. Claire Reymond, WG Geoecology and Carbonate Sedimentology