Arctic species and ecosystems are highly evolved in function and finely tuned to the timing of seasonal events. Along with the warming of the Arctic, this fine-tuned balance is being disturbed, both in time and space. The urgency to understand the biodiversity and to identify the key species and functional links of todays’ ecosystems is thus apparent.
Microorganisms are critically important as primary producers and decomposers, yet their minute size and our inability to culture most of them have made them difficult to study. Thus we know very little about them, especially in remote and inaccessible areas like the Arctic.
In the MicroFun project we take advantage of recent developments in genetics (i.e. next generation sequencing and metatranscriptomics) to investigate the diversity and function of Svalbards microbial eukaryotic organisms. We focus on pico- and nano-eukaryotes (10-0.45 um size fraction) in the marine environment and symbiotic root-living fungi in the terrestrial environment. By combining the use of state of the art molecular tools with intensive spatial and temporal sampling, we also aim to identify the abiotic factors that shape the microbial communities. The MicroFun project is based at UNIS.
Our specific objectives are:
• To acquire baseline data on the community composition of arctic marine and terrestrial microbial eukaryotes and to identify the key species.
• To identify the environmental factors that shape arctic eukaryotic microbial communities in space and time.
• To identify the bioactivities of eukaryotic microbes in environmentally distinct arctic habitats
• To examine the potential for bioprospecting among the arctic microbial eukaryotes.