Marine biodiversity is one of the priorities identified in the "Second call for proposals under MAST-III programme" with particular reference to "the identification of novel exploitable resources for bioactive substances". One of the largest and less known sources of potential bioactive products is the enormous assemblage of prokaryotic microorganisms living in the ocean. These microorganisms are ubiquitous and known to comprise a diversity far surpassing that of animals and plants. Both Bacteria and Arquea are present in the sea, but the number of species, their relative abundance, and their metabolic roles remain unknown. The recent application of molecular techniques to natural environments is beginning to provide some insight. While very valuable contributions to this field have come from individual European laboratories, the truth is that there is not a network of laboratories in Europe comparable to those in other Continents, especially in North America.
The overall aim of MIDAS is to establish a framework (including development and testing of concepts, techniques and strategies) designed to measure diversity and to retrieve microorganisms of potential importance to the biotechnology industry from marine ecosystems. This framework is necessary both to monitor the response of marine ecosystems to human activities and environmental change, and to provide an improved basis, through coordinated European research effort, for exploiting the potential of microorganism diversity in the sea.
The specific objectives of MIDAS are:
1. Develop techniques (specially molecular techniques) to examine diversity of marine microbial ecosystems.
2. Test the developed methods by analyzing patterns of diversity in experimental model ecosystems and in natural environments.
3. Examine the mechanisms maintaining diversity in microbial communities. 4. Develop strategies to isolate bacteria of potential commercial significance from marine environments. This involves knowing where to look for them and how to isolate them.
5. Analysis of natural microbial assemblages using molecular biology techniques to describe diversity in different marine provinces. MIDAS will contain the following interacting elements:
- Isolation of microbes of industrial potential and laboratory experiments using cultures of microorganisms
- Testing of hypotheses of diversity using marine mesocosm experiments containing natural mixed plankton communities
- Field studies from contrasting locations and modeling results of diversity
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
PL1 3DH Plymouth