An NSF collaborative project between scientists at MBL (Drs. Joe Vallino and Anne Giblin) and Brown University (Dr. Jeremy Rich) seeks to understand the environmental controls that govern how bacteria in marine sediments use inorganic nitrogen to obtain energy necessary for growth, and in the process removed excess nitrogen from marine systems. Relatively recently a new pathway, known as anammox, has been discovered that converts ammonium and nitrite into nitrogen gas that escapes to the atmosphere.
The anammox bacteria compete with well know denitrifying bacteria that use nitrate to oxidize organic matter, which also results in nitrogen gas production. Because of the novelty of the anammox bacteria, much remains unknown regarding the competition between these competing pathways in marine environments. The collaborative Anammox project at MBL and Brown seeks to elucidate these processes by conducting a combination of field-based experiments, laboratory experiments and thermodynamic-based metabolic modeling. The laboratory-based experiments and associated modeling at MBL are particularly well suited for an undergraduate research project.