Plankton’s Role in Climate Change to be Discussed April 5

The surprising role that invisible single-celled microbes play in buffering climate change impacts in ocean waters will be the topic of Oregon State University’s Science Pub event at 6 p.m. April 5.

The free event, which can be attended in person at the Old World Deli in Corvallis or viewed online, will feature a presentation by Kimberly Halsey, the Excellence in Microbiology Faculty Scholar in the OSU College of Science. Her presentation is titled “The oceans’ single-celled gas guzzlers.”

In her talk, Halsey, will talk about how gaseous organic molecules are transferred at a surprisingly high rate between plankton at the surface of the ocean. These gasses, including well known solvents such as benzene and acetone, contribute up to 20% of the marine carbon cycle, the process by which planet-warming atmospheric carbon is pulled into the sea.

Photosynthetic plankton are the major producers of these organic gasses and diverse bacterioplankton are the consumers. Efficient gas transfer between these plankton groups limits sea-air gas emissions that have wide-ranging climate impacts.

“Our research is revealing that there is a very large gas cycle in the ocean,” Halsey said. “The cycle is made up of a huge number of gasses that are guzzled by marine bacteria at very high rates. These gas cycles are critical to preventing gasses from entering the atmosphere where they can deplete the protective ozone layer.”

Registration is required to attend Science Pub in person or to view it online. The Old World Deli is located at 341 SW 2nd St., Corvallis.

Sponsors of Science Pub include the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Old World Deli, Oregon State’s Research Office and Oregon State University.

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