NOSASSO: N-OSmolytes Across the Surface Southern Ocean: Environmental Drivers and Bioinformatics

Lead Research Organisation: Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Department Name: Plymouth Marine Lab

Abstract

Nitrogen-containing compounds, including glycine betaine (GBT), choline and trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) are ubiquitous in marine organisms. They are used by marine organisms as compatible solutes in response to changes in environmental conditions, such as increasing salinity, because they do not interfere with cell metabolism. They also have beneficial effects in protecting proteins against denaturation due to chemical or physical damage.
In the marine environment, these compounds are frequently released from these organisms directly into seawater due to changing environmental conditions, such as by viral lysis or grazing. The released nitrogenous osmolytes serve as important nutrients for marine microorganisms, which can use them as carbon, nitrogen and energy sources. It is well known that the degradation of these nitrogenous osmolytes contribute to the release of climate-active gases, including volatile methylamines. Methylamines are important sources of aerosols in the marine atmosphere, which help to reflect sunlight and cause a cooling effect on the climate. Our NERC-funded research is starting to understand the microbial metabolism of these compounds and their seasonal cycles in the coastal surface seawater, but our understanding across the world's oceans is limited.
Of particular importance to the Earth's climate is the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean is an important player in the Earth climate system, and is an ideal region to study ocean-atmosphere connections because of its isolation from continental emissions and the strong circumpolar atmospheric circulation, rendering its air pristine. Opportunities to study the Southern Ocean are rare however, and it remains under sampled even for the most routine measurements compared to the rest of the World's oceans. We have a unique opportunity within the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) to make measurements and collect samples around the entire Southern Ocean, and near Antarctica. Twenty one other international projects will also be conducting research from the same expedition, and six of these projects have excellent links to our research. Unfortunately, there are no plans for after the expedition for the projects to collaborate and integrate data, which is a real missed opportunity. This proposal aims to develop a new international network with six ACE projects and use post-cruise activities to exploit data and knowledge generated to capitalise on our NERC-funded research on nitrogenous osmolytes and to increase its international breadth.

Planned Impact

This project addresses fundamental questions relating to marine biogeochemical cycles and climate-active gas emissions from the Southern Ocean, both of which are crucial to our understanding of climate. The work is therefore of utmost relevance to the key goal of NERC's strategy "to understand how the planet works".

The main beneficiary of the knowledge generated from this study is anticipated to be public sectors focusing on marine ecosystem services and the scientific community working on marine aerosol research and marine microbes. Marine aerosols play an important role in the Earth system, not only in climate, but also in atmospheric chemistry and human health problems. Until recently, sea-salt formation from bubble bursting and dimethylsulfide (DMS) oxidation were thought to be the main sources of marine aerosols. There is growing evidence in the past five years that methylamines play an important role in marine aerosol formation, in addition to DMS. The communication with atmospheric and aerosol chemists will be enhanced by our international data workshop, which comprises a cohort of science disciplines.

Our project also has immediate general interest for the wider public, including the general public and those in education. The images generated during the expedition and this type of work is likely to attract considerable attention in social media.
A variety of methods will be used to engage with the end-users, including the international data workshop and summary document, web news articles, and regular updates in social media via facebook and twitter.
 
Description We have discovered that N-osmolytes are higher in ice influenced regions (Dall'Osto et al., 2017). Also, rapid diurnal variation in N-osmolyte concentration has been observed (unpublished, still investigating). This study gives the first measurements of several volatile compounds, including methylamines and isoprene (via collaborators), and nitrogen osmolytes, across the Southern Ocean; added to the existing datasets of DMS and halomethanes. Trimethylamine (TMA) was the main volatile amine detected in the dissolved phase, consistent with a previous cruise (PEGASO - 2015) in the Antarctic region. Overall across the Southern Ocean, concentration of trace gases were low. Plankton abundance (biomass) alone could not predict the concentrations of all these metabolites of interest for the atmosphere. Plankton taxonomical composition and physiology also play critical roles. Levels of N-osmolytes observed during the circumnavigation were lower than those observed during the PEGASO campaign, but several regions of higher concentration were observed, and we are working with our project partners to identify the sources of concentrations observed.
Exploitation Route This research will give us fundamental new insights into climate relevant compounds in the Southern Ocean. The metagenome sequences will provide an important resource in an undersampled region for understanding other key genes associated with processing climate active compounds. The modelling approach will lead us to the key drivers of the distribution of N-osmolytes in the Southern Ocean. The NOSASSO workshop, due to be held 4th-6th September 2018, will aid data discussion and outputs between project partners.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description The NOSASSO project was included in a presentation at an event organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Polar Regions, which was to update politicians and policy makers on the UK involvement in the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition. Ruth AIrs hosted the NOSASSO international workshop, which was attended by 30 delegates from all over the world, and resulted in invitations for participation in future research activities (eg. Lausanne data workshop, research opportunities in Antarctica). Further, the group found approaches to maximise the impact of our data.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description All Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions: invited to give a talk at an event for politicians, scientists and policy makers, held at the Royal Society
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description NERC Discovery
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R010382/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 04/2021
 
Title Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition sample set 
Description We have safely transported 1500 frozen samples from Antarctica to PML. These samples were collected during the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition, and are being analysed to determine the concentration of glycine betaine, choline and TMAO. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This is the first sample set of its type. 
 
Title Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition: Choline data leg 2 
Description Choline concentration data from both CTD and underway samples, for leg 2 of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Used as basis for modelling, and to understand the importance of these compounds in the Southern Ocean 
 
Title Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition: TMAO data leg 2 
Description TMAO concentration data from leg 2 of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Used as basis for modelling, and understanding Southern Ocean concentrations of these compounds 
 
Title Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition: glycine betaine data leg 2 
Description Glycine betaine concentration data from CTD and underway samples from leg 2 of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Basis for modelling, and interpreting data. 
 
Title N-osmolyte model developments 
Description Model formulation describing N-osmolyte dynamic was modified by assuming a positive feedback of these metabolites on growth and fitness of dinoflagellates under nutrient stress condition. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The new model improved the simulations of N-osmolytes and phytoplankton types succession in the transition between spring and summer. The combined analysis of data and model simulations allowed to put forward a new hypothesis on the physiological role of N-osmolytes in phytoplankton 
 
Title Simulation of the sysonal cycle of N-osmolytes in the Western English Channel (L4 station) and comparison with observations 
Description Model simulation describing N-osmolytes in the Western English Channel. The simulation includes the year 2016 in which observational data were available for comparison 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This is the first N-osmolyte simulation carried out with a complex marine ecosystem model (ERSEM). The analysis of the simulation and the comparison with the data allowed a mechanistic interpretation of the dynamics underpinning N-osmolyte seasonality. A manuscript is in preparation. 
 
Description Bergen collaboration 
Organisation Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Department Institute of Marine Sciences
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Shipping of kit to Bergen for experiment. Analysis of samples for N-osmolytes. Data interpretation.
Collaborator Contribution Sampling opportunity in international Bergen experiment looking at biological and physical control of trace gas and precursor production.
Impact Still in progress
Start Year 2017
 
Description Genes to Gases Workshop 
Organisation University of East Anglia
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Had idea of workshop, consulted UK network, workshop co-convener, presented talk, and led discussion session.
Collaborator Contribution Workshop organiser and co-convener
Impact The Genes to Gases workshop was held in June 2017, at the University of East Anglia. The workshop was multidisciplinary, included researchers from all over the UK, and covered biogeochemistry of trace gases and their precursors (measurement); genes, metabolic pathways, enzymes involved in their production, and modelling. A small group also discussed ideas for a large grant.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Genes to Gases Workshop 
Organisation University of Essex
Department Institute for Social and Economic Research, Essex
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Had idea of workshop, consulted UK network, workshop co-convener, presented talk, and led discussion session.
Collaborator Contribution Workshop organiser and co-convener
Impact The Genes to Gases workshop was held in June 2017, at the University of East Anglia. The workshop was multidisciplinary, included researchers from all over the UK, and covered biogeochemistry of trace gases and their precursors (measurement); genes, metabolic pathways, enzymes involved in their production, and modelling. A small group also discussed ideas for a large grant.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Moorea collaboration 
Organisation Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Department Institute of Marine Sciences
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Provision and shipping of kit for sampling in Moorea. Analysis of samples for N-osmolytes
Collaborator Contribution Sampling in research campaign in Moorea, looking at range of trace gases, their precursors, and their biological and physical control.
Impact Still in progress
Start Year 2017
 
Description NAAMES collaboration microlayer sampling 
Organisation University of California, Irvine
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Shipping of microlayer samples from Woods Hole to the UK. Analysis of microlayer samples for N-osmolytes. Data interpretation with international team.
Collaborator Contribution The partners collected microlayer samples for us on board the NAAMES cruise (September 2017) in the North Atlantic. This was an add-on opportunity, and there is a team of international researchers analysing microlayer samples for their specialist parameters, enabling better understanding of the air-sea interface.
Impact Still in progress
Start Year 2017
 
Description NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA. 
Organisation Paul Scherrer Institute
Country Switzerland 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA.
Collaborator Contribution NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA.
Impact NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA.
Start Year 2017
 
Description NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA. 
Organisation Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Department Institute of Marine Sciences
Country Spain 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA.
Collaborator Contribution NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA.
Impact NOSASSO is an active participant in ASAID, the ocean-atmosphere interactions subproject of ACE-DATA.
Start Year 2017
 
Description PI-ICE Antarctic Organic Nitrogen 
Organisation Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Country European Union (EU) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Sampling and analysis expertise for N-osmolytes.
Collaborator Contribution Sampling opportunity on board ship and at research base in ANtarctica
Impact Sample collection in Antarctica
Start Year 2018
 
Description All Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions: Invited talk at event held at Royal Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited to give a talk at an event at the Royal Society hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Polar Regions. The event was attended by politicians, policy makers, and other scientists. The event was to showcase the UK involvement in the International Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Convening Genes for Gases workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Convening workshop to be held in June 2017 entitled "Genes to Gases" for the UK community studying the biogeochemistry of trace gases and the microbial enzymes and pathways involved in their formation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Genes to Gases workshop: Discussion session 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I chaired a discussion session at the Genes to Gases workshop (UEA, June 2017), to identify new interdisciplinary research crossover and priorities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Genes to Gases workshop: N-osmolytes and volatile amines in the marine biosphere. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented research at the Genes to Gases workshop, entitled "N-osmolytes and volatile amines in the marine biosphere".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Introduction to n-osmolytes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We created a video about the N-osmolytes project, and uploaded it to You Tube. We also highlighted it via Social Media. To date, the video has been viewed 213 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPIqpJ_BKTU&t=5s
 
Description Invited to attend ACE data workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited and funded to attend Antarctic CIrcumnavigation Expedition Data Workshop in Lausanne. Outcomes were data integration projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Marine Organics workshop: N-osmolytes and volatile amines in the marine biosphere. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to a Marine Organics workshop, and presented research on N-osmolytes and volatile amines in the marine biosphere. Future collaborations and research crossover were discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description NOSASSO International Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Researchers from 7 projects within the Circumnavigation Expedition project came together in Plymouth for 3 days to discuss our research approaches and findings together, to get the most value and understanding from our data
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description NOSASSO international data workshop planning 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We are planning the NOSASSO international data workshop, due to take place 4th-6th September 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Polar 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Attended Polar 2018 in Davos, and presented posters on: Exploring ocean-atmosphere exchanges in the SOuthern Ocean: the PEGASO and ACE projects; ANtarctic sea ice region as a source of biogenic nitrogen in aerosols.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Press release: Searching for answers in the Southern Ocean 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A press release by PML on behalf of NOSASSO was released entitled Searching for Answers in the Southern Ocean, the day before the start of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.pml.ac.uk/News_and_media/News/Searching_for_answers_in_the_Southern_Ocean
 
Description Royal Society of Chemistry Invited Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Gave RSC invited lecture of biogeochemistry of N-osmolytes
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019