Mak Saito, a biogeochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has been selected for a Marine Microbiology Initiative (MMI) investigator award by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Saito is one of 16 scientists from 14 different institutions who will receive funds from a total of up to $35 million over five years to pursue pioneering research in the field of marine microbial ecology.
"We are grateful to the Moore Foundation for their leadership in support of 'high risk' research," says WHOI President and Director Susan Avery. "The Foundation has shown great foresight by investing in those who work in the vanguard of marine microbial ecology to push the boundaries of knowledge in this complex field of science."
The funding will enable researchers to explore how the trillions upon trillions of microscopic organisms at the base of the ocean's food webs interact with each other and their environment. It will help scientists understand how the ocean's most abundant yet smallest organisms affect the movement of nutrients in our oceans. The funding will also provide new insightsand lead to new and exciting questionsabout our basic understanding of ocean ecosystems and pressing issues like climate change.
Saito's research focuses on the nutritional requirements of metals in marine microbes, with an emphasis on their proteins. Metals are essential components in biogeochemical reactions, and their intense scarcity in seawater can have a profound effect on major natural cycles, such as the carbon and nitrogen cycles, and has resulted in unique adaptations. In his work, Saito has developed and adapted sophisticated methods for understanding nutrient-microbial interactions using proteomicsa branch of biochemistry that allows studies of the thousands of proteins encoded by a genome present in an organismand high-throughput sampling and analytical methods for low level trace metal measurements in different parts of the ocean.
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution