Stoichiometric ecology of the ribosome

Biological stoichiometry is based on the observation that all organisms require chemical elements such as carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) for growth and development. P is of particular interest because it is especially important in construction of genetic material such as DNA and RNA and is often present in limiting concentrations in the environment. This project will investigate the biological rules that determine the elemental recipe ("stoichiometry") of microorganisms that grow under severely P-deficient conditions in a set of unique desert springs at Cuatro Cienegas (Coahuila, Mexico). This study will use both laboratory and field experiments, combined with cutting-edge methods of molecular biology and genomics (such as single-cell genotyping and Nano-SIMS) to investigate how changes in the P supply alter the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of these microorganisms and to reveal how they cope with shortages of this essential chemical element. Finally, the project will produce bi-lingual science education products that will enhance science education in Arizona and nationally for both K/12 students and the general public.

Here is the science/art film produced during this project.



NSF Ecosystem Studies program