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Scuba Diving For Marine Microbiologists

BY: Sonali Bhawsar | Category: Careers | Submitted: 2012-05-16 05:00:36
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Article Summary: "All the oceans of the earth are inhabited by extremely diverse microorganisms. The present research scenario is still very scanty to understand various physiological and functional characteristics of these microcreatures. Researchers needs to explore microbes from extreme ocean habitats like deep thermal vents, ocean bed and cru.."


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Marine environment, regarding flora and fauna of its different ecosystems is as vast as ocean depth and therefore represents never ending opportunities for scientific investigations. Marine ecosystems have been scientifically studied with the help of old as well as modern methodologies from various branches of Biology and Technology. But the current oceanic biological research is very scanty as compared to land and many marine biological facts are still unexplored. Therefore, it would be wise to say that whatever research is done concerned to lithosphere should actually be simultaneously done with respect to hydrosphere. Ocean/Marine Microbiology is one of the very prosperous branches of Biology which has flourished to such an extent that no oceanic research objective is fulfilled without the aid of Marine Microbiology. Marine microorganisms are known to be the chemists of seas and oceans. They can be found in free living state or associated with marine architects or corals in this aqueous environment. They are not only integral part of oceanic biogeochemical cycles but also control functioning of biotic components of marine ecosystems.

What needs to be done in marine Microbiology research?
All the oceans of the earth are inhabited by extremely diverse microorganisms. The present research scenario is still very scanty to understand various physiological and functional characteristics of these microcreatures. Researchers needs to explore microbes from extreme ocean habitats like deep thermal vents, ocean bed and crust, coral colonies and endosymbiotants of crustaceans and other marine fauna. The studies regarding survival of microbes under nutrient stress, low/high temperature, high temperature, light/dark zones and tolerance to high salt concentration should be done. It is mandatory to find antagonistic or symbiotic interactions of marine microorganisms with other flora and fauna. We have not hesitated to exploit marine microbes as a source of novel pharmaceuticals, pigments, surfactants and enzymes but genetic and biochemical basis of these resources demands detail investigations; otherwise we will never realize the importance of these microbes before they will diminish; so what mankind did with many land flora and fauna.

Barriers of marine microbiology research
There are many methodologies to study microorganisms. As we all know the basic thing to start studying a microbe is to isolate it from its habitat. Here is what the marine microbiologist faces the problem because marine microorganisms are either very difficult to isolate or not at all culturable. The frequent sampling of microbes from diverse marine habitats is also problematic due to variable ocean depths and our inability to reach that particular habitat. It is impossible to get exactly similar microbial isolates even from same sampling site as marine environment is extremely dynamic and microbes are always present in diluted proportion. However shipboard laboratories, underwater laboratories and bathymetry have always been helpful during sampling of marine microorganisms. Yet there is a need to adapt sampling procedure that not only allows a researcher to visit and collect sample of his/her choice but also monitoring of and frequent samplings from the site. For the microbiological researchers, hopefully, the following procedure would be very feasible.

Here, I would like to introduce an ancient but very popular way of diving, which is scuba diving. One may call it as aquatic sport but for scientific community it can be a great tool for underwater exploration. Initially, when I was learning scuba diving, I just enjoyed underwater scenary. But during advanced training, microbiologist within me realized that it can be a best way for underwater and at depth sampling of our microbes. Later on I discovered that scuba diving has really been used for many scientific explorations by geologists, biologists, and technologists and even by navy/ armies of different countries. In fact I did not find scuba diving explorations especially done for microbiological research. So here is a great opportunity for a marine microbiologist to learn scuba diving to enhance his/her research work; if they are already expert scuba divers then have this as an advantage to upgrade their research potential. I suggest you to be a professional scuba diver and then marine microbiologist or vice-versa and help yourself to investigate microbes from diverse marine habitats. Let's help microbiologists all over the world by overcoming barriers of marine microbial research and reveal the microbial world of amazing facts including earth's history that are hidden in our oceans.

Being underwater
Scuba divers wear specially designed aquasuit to provide streamlined body and maintain buoyancy changes. It is also equipped with breathing gas cylinder with control valve and regulator for effortless breathing and combating effects of increasing water pressure as diver advances to depths. Divers can communicate underwater with the colleagues using universal hand signals that are learnt and practiced during training drills. Teaching expertise also trains the diver in techniques to avoid barotraumas or pressure injuries like damage to nasopharyngeal and bronchial systems. Microbiologists cum Scuba Divers (MSD) are at great advantage to explore underwater. They can reach to the different depths, caves, cores, coral reefs, kelp forests or near vents or fish schools what is impossible for ships or machinery. They can observe and record interactions of marine flora-fauna and their associated microbes as videographs or photographs. They even can carry out experiments underwater for days or they can install the necessary instruments on the site for constant monitoring underwater as well as in their land laboratory. Marine ecosystems are so diverse that there are sure chances to discover novel species or genera of microbes from particular marine habitat which was ignored or not visited before. They can identify and culture, if possible such a microbe for detail investigations regarding its genetics, physiology, biochemistry or applied characteristics. Marine microbes are known to be efficient indicators of oil reserves and metal ores; so MSDs may look out for such microorganisms. Studies of such novel species can tell us about various aspects of marine environment; such as pathogenic or beneficial interactions, level of sea pollution and their impact on living and nonliving components on the earth. Such studies would be very productive to implement marine conservation projects and plan the strategies for clean-up of marine environment. Even one day we would be able to find solution for global warming or trace the evolutionary history of the earth via gene pool from the marine microbiota. I am sure that MSDs will certainly take the opportunity to survey underwater diverse microbial populations and collect very informative scientific data. I urge my colleague microbiologists to be an efficient MSD!

Scuba diver training, certification and research employment organizations in the world
Some of the active diving training institutes around the world are enlisted here for your reference:
• Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), USA
• British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC), UK
• National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), USA
• Professional Diving Instructors Corporation (PDIC), USA
• American Canadian Underwater Certifications (ACUC), Canada
• Scuba Schools International (SSI), USA
• The University Marine Biological Station Millport (UMBSM), UK
• HYDRA Institute of Marine Sciences, Italy
• Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Germany

In addition to these, following are some of the well known commercial diving organizations:

• International Diver Recognition Forum (IDRF)
• International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA)
• International Diving Schools Association (IDSA)

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