If you collect a sample of water from the Delaware Bay and look at it with the naked eye, you probably won’t see anything too exciting. But view the same sample under a microscope and a whole, new world of bustling, bug-like organisms suddenly appears.
UD microbiologist David Kirchman is studying the microbes that inhabit the ocean. These tiny, one-celled organisms represent the most abundant life form on Earth and are critical to the ocean’s — and our own — welfare.
On Thursday, July 26, at 7:00 p.m., at the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies in Lewes, Kirchman will present “The Unseen World Around Us: Microbes in Nature.” The presentation is part of the Ocean Currents Lecture Series, held monthly at the Lewes campus through September.
“While marine microbes may be tiny, their size is by no means a measure of their importance,” says Kirchman. “These organisms form the base of the food chain — all other life forms in the ocean depend on them. Marine bacteria also are involved in all kinds of environmental processes, from decomposing dead plants to detoxifying certain pollutants. Moreover, they impact critical geological, biological, and chemical cycles,” he notes. “That means, among other things, that these tiny organisms control the amount of oxygen in the water and they affect the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.”
During his presentation, Kirchman will share what he and other scientists have learned about the role that marine bacteria play in storing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that affects global climate. He’ll also reveal some of the unique challenges involved in studying the ocean’s “invisible life.”
Kirchman received his doctoral and master’s degrees in environmental engineering from Harvard University and his bachelor’s degree in biology from Lawrence University. He joined the UD faculty in 1986.
Three years ago, Kirchman was named the Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Marine Studies in recognition of his significant achievements in marine microbiology.
Earlier this month, he was appointed acting associate dean of the college. During the next year, he will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Lewes campus while Associate Dean Nancy Targett is on sabbatical leave to conduct marine biochemistry research in Scotland.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279.