SC 2022 Semilab: The Unseen World of the Sea

by Lena Yakubovskaya

Did you know that the only species that can be directly seen from space is some tiny unicellular algae? During its seasonal blooms, algae form gigantic accumulations in oceans, which leads to the absorption of a huge amount of atmospheric carbon and directly affects our Earth’s climate. Surprisingly, the species responsible for the termination of that planetary-scale event is a tiny virus, which, like a wildfire in a forest, rapidly propagates in algal accumulations and abruptly terminates the bloom.

During our semilab, we will learn a lot about tiny creatures, which play so important role in our planet’s climate regulation. We will learn how they help to store atmospheric carbon in the deep ocean, and how those algae can be seen from space. We will grow our own algae, see how viruses attack an algal community (even without a microscope!), create a laboratory-scale algal bloom, and observe how a virus causes its demise.

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