The GMGI Science Hour with Dr. Peter Girguis: A Warm Up

Photo credit: Ocean Alliance

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Known as: Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University

Based out of: Cambridge, MA

What he does in 10 words or less: Researches the physiological and biochemical adaptations of life in the deep sea

Why what he does is important to you: Dr. Peter Girguis and his colleagues study the animals and microbes that live in hydrothermal vents and hydrocarbon seeps in the deep sea. These are extreme environments; they are under immense pressure and can have temperatures that range from below freezing to over 662°F. Even though these environments seem other worldly, they do in fact influence Earth’s overall ecosystem functions. Dr. Girguis’s work studying these adaptations and biogeochemical cycles, with an emphasis on carbon and nitrogen metabolism, will help to better understand marine microbes’ role in mediating local and global biogeochemical cycles.

Studying these environments is also extremely difficult. The technical challenges of working in the deep ocean under immense pressure and corrosively, have hindered the ability to collect and conduct experiments in situ. Dr. Girguis has developed new techniques and tools that are necessary to broaden our understanding of these organisms. He believes in the spirit of collaboration and advancing the pace of discovery, and makes these instruments and technology designs available to all academic scientists. He hopes to they can help inform policymakers and other stakeholders who govern the fate of our ocean, and ultimately, our biosphere.

What you’ll learn from the talk: Dr. Girguis will shed light on the relationship between microbial ecology, physiology, and the geochemical environment in hydrothermal vents and hydrocarbon seeps. He and his colleagues use “omics-informed” physiological experiments. These experiments: measure metabolic activity – including carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen metabolism, examine the associated patterns of gene and protein expression, and relate their activity to biogeochemical cycles. He also studies the symbiotic associations of animals and microbes in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. What is the physiological and biochemical adaptation of microbes and their hosts to one another and the environment? Why did they evolve and adapt to this relationship in the deep sea? Finally, he will share the technologies and advancements that allowed him and his team to study these extreme environments.

Join us as we visit the deep sea – a place so alien-like you won’t believe it exists on Planet Earth!

Key Terms:

In-situ: situated in the original place or environment

Ex-situ: off site from the natural location, in contrast to in-situ

Microbe: a microorganism, especially a bacterium causing disease or fermentation.

Symbiosis: interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

Biochemical: relating to the chemical processes and substances which occur within living organisms

Biogeochemical cycle: any of the natural pathways by which essential elements of living matter are circulated. The term biogeochemical is a contraction that refers to the consideration of the biological, geological, and chemical aspects of each cycle.

When: Thursday, January 27 at 7:30pm on Zoom. Register here.