It is uncertain how, and to what extent, methane release from gas hydrates affects life on the seabed.
We study micro organisms and benthic organisms, communities, and food webs to understand the range of biological responses to varying intensities of natural hydrocarbon seeps from marine sediments. We focus on the Svalbard/Barents Sea area studying seasonal and interannual changes from the microbial to the macrofauna scale. Future research strategy for our group will be the development of new and unique infrastructures, such as the Ice-Cold Microorganisms Laboratory: ICOM. The lab will help us decipher key controlling functions of microorganisms on methane release in the Arctic, as well as their influence on the macro communities on the ocean floor. This technological development focuses our strategy towards more intense investigation of methane associated microorganisms. Microorganisms have a very short generation time, and are highly responsive to climate change compared to macro organisms, making them valuable environmental “watchdogs”. A key future aim is to determine rapid versus slow feedback microbial responses at the highest level of resolution – genomes, gene expression and biochemistry. This new scientific direction is staked out in collaboration with the Arctic Marine Biology group at UiT.
About the research area leader
Professor Mette Marianne Svenning is an internationally recognized expert on methods for isolation and cultivation of methane oxidizing bacteria (MOB), and has a culture collection of representative MOB from Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. This currently represents one of the research platforms of Svenning’s group, addressing adaptive mechanisms to Arctic ecosystems by molecular physiology, combining laboratory experiments with genomics. Another main research platform of Svenning’s group is biodiversity and activity of microbial communities, and their involvement in organic carbon degradation and CH4 emission. In these studies they apply metagenomics and metatranscriptomics in combination with bioinformatics. Svenning has extensive fieldwork experience from Arctic (Svalbard) and sub-Arctic regions. This includes leadership, management and coordination of fieldwork, methane emission measurements, vegetation analyses and sampling for microbial and molecular studies in home laboratory.
Prof. Svenning is partner in international projects including collaboration with Austria, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France and Russia and has participated in several European COST Actions.