Dr. Mya Breitbart, Professor of Biological Oceanography at the University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, discusses marine microbes—microbes in the ocean, wastewater treatment, viruses, and her lab’s current and past work. Breitbart earned her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology at San Diego State University and a BS in Biological Sciences from Florida Institute of Technology.
Dr. Breitbart discusses her lab’s focus and objectives. As she explains, they use sequencing techniques to explore the diversity of viruses and bacteria. Specifically, Dr. Breitbart’s lab’s molecular techniques can be utilized to study the distribution, and ecological roles, of viruses and bacteria in a diverse range of varied environments. Her studies cover seawater, plants, animals, insects, coral reefs, zooplankton, stromatolites, reclaimed water, and more. While there is certainly a lot of interest in the larger species, etc. that inhabit our oceans, Dr. Breitbart and her team are keenly interested in the smaller things. As she explains, in every milliliter of sea water there are about one million bacteria and ten million viruses, so there’s a lot to examine and study. She discusses bacteria and viruses’ important roles in the carbon and nutrient cycles in the oceans, and explains that there is so much more to learn still, on top of what they already know.
Dr. Breitbart discusses how bacteria adapt to different habitats. And she provides an overview of sampling procedures that oceanographers utilize, discussing the processes in detail. She explains how they can get specific with depths, capturing water samples at precisely the depth they want to study. She explains why viruses are harder to look at, one reason being is that they have such different types of genomes. And she expands upon how they can look at viruses in regard to pollution in the marine environment.
Continuing, Dr. Breitbart discusses how their studies can provide insight into diseases that affect sea animals as well. And in regard to sequencing, she talks about single-stranded DNA viruses versus double-stranded, and the methods they’ve used to discover similarities and differences.