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Prof. Ilana Berman-Frank

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Photo by Maxim Rubin


The microbial (bacterioplankton and phytoplankton) members of aquatic environments contribute ~ 50% to global primary production, are essential to aquatic food-webs, nutrient recycling, and all major biogeochemical cycles (e.g. carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus).

In my laboratory we use both field (in-situ) and laboratory approaches to explore how these organisms respond to environmentally relevant changes and how they influence bio-geochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the face of climate changes including global warming, eutrophication (nutrient enrichment), and ocean acidification due to increased dissolution of atmospheric COin the oceans. Our research extends from exploring the genetic and molecular mechanisms, to physiological adaptations, and to the impacts of these organisms on the ecology of their environment. We then integrate data from both laboratory studies and the natural aquatic environments to understand and predict the role of these organisms in the oceans. The increasing scarcity of potable water combined with the reality of an arid region has also expanded our research into the growing areas and habitats impacted by human developments of seawater desalination and off-shore drilling for gas and oil.

Some of the questions we investigate are:

  • How will the discharges and outflows of multiple coastal desalination plants impact the natural microbial communities and primary productivity along the coastal environments in the vicinity of desalination plants?
  • How can the costs of biofouling along the the desalination Reverse Osmosis membranes be reduced?
  • What is the role of transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP) in forming biofilms along the desalination process and how can they be prevented?
  • How will the expedited activities of offshore drilling for gas and oil in the Mediterranean Sea affect the primary and bacterial producers?