Picophytoplankton (cells < 3 µm) contribute significantly to marine plankton biomass and productivity. Recent molecular studies have brought to light their wide diversity. Our knowledge of the diversity of picoplankton is very limited for the Adriatic Sea, so developing methods for assessing and monitoring their ecology and diversity is essential for understanding their contribution in food web dynamics and biochemical cycles. The lack of data is due to technical difficulties in identifying and classifying picoplanktonic organisms with light microscopy, which clarifies the need for new efficient tools in the studying of these small organisms. Among the molecular methods that have been used so far DGGE has been proved as the best compromise between the number of samples and obtained information.
Results: The main idea of this project was to test and validate DGGE as a method that allows routine assessment of picophytoplankton diversity in the Adriatic Sea. Our strategy to meet this objective was encapsulated in my 3 month stay in the hosting lab at the ICM Institute. In that period I was able to learn the preparation of samples consisting of PCR amplification of 16S and 18S rRNA; preparation of DGGE gels, cutting gels for sequencing and interpretation of results. Some of the results were already presented at the hosting Institute during my stay (November 23rd, 2010 at 10 h, hall S47a), which provided me an excellent opportunity for discussion with eminent experts from this field.
After the final analysis, the results will be discussed in my doctoral thesis, scientific publications and public lectures.
I must admit that the cooperation with the hosting organization was much better than I was expecting. Their hospitality and good will to help in any moment I needed assistance with the processing of samples or working with instruments or interpretation of results was really great. That level of healthy working spirit I must say is pretty rare.
I have gained great experience while working in this lab and I think that the main benefit is not only my new skills gained from outstanding experienced researchers but as well the establishment of future collaboration. Establishing working networks worldwide is surely one of the most important parts in increasing international competitiveness of national scientific centers like the Center for marine research.
Dr. Carlos Pedrós-Alió