Project Description

Professor Edward DeLong


Professor of Oceanography, Co-Director, C-MORE, Co-Director, SCOPE
University of Hawaii, USA

Towards 4 dimensional (eco) systems biology in the sea


Friday 8 July 2016

Edward DeLong received his Bachelor of Science degree in Bacteriology at the University of California Davis in 1982, and his PhD in Marine Biology in 1986 at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. He was a Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara in the Department of Ecology for seven years, before moving to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute where he was a Senior Scientist and Chair of the Science Department also for seven years. Until July 2014, he served as a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Departments of Civil and Environmental, and Biological Engineering, where he held the Morton and Claire Goulder Family Professorship in Environmental Systems. He is now a Professor of Oceanography in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He currently serves as co-Director for both the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE), and the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE). DeLong is a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Academy of Arts and Science, the U.S. National Academy of Science, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

DeLong’s scientific interests focus primarily on central questions in marine microbial genomics, biogeochemistry, ecology, and evolution. A large part of DeLong’s efforts have been devoted to the study of microbes and microbial processes in the ocean, combining laboratory and field-based approaches. Development and application of genomic, biochemical and metabolic approaches to study and exploit microbial communities and processes is another area of interest. Currently, Delong is coupling the use of autonomous robotic sensors and samplers with genomic technologies, to derive highly resolution spatial and temporal maps of microbial community gene expression datasets in situ.


Microbial communities regulate the cycling of energy and matter in the marine environment, yet the variability of their activities in space and time, and how they dynamically respond to both natural and anthropogenic environmental changes, is not well understood. Genome-enabled methodologies are now providing deeper perspective on the nature and the identity of microbial taxa, genes, and metabolic diversity in the marine environment. Yet one of the larger challenges remaining is defining the variability of these microbial taxa, genes and processes on different spatial and temporal scales in the environment. Questions that need to be better addressed include: How do activities of different microbial species vary of the course of minutes, hours, days and weeks? Over what spatial scales are temporal dynamics coherently predictable? How does variation in any specific population correlate corresponding environmental variation, and the variability of other taxa? Novel in situ robotic sampling strategies that capture transcriptomic temporal profiles of wild planktonic microbial populations, have potential provide a four dimensional motion picture of microbial gene expression dynamics that can begin to address such questions. New results using such approaches show that individual coexisting eukaryote, bacterial and archaeal populations display remarkably similar, time-variable patterns of synchronous gene expression over extended periods of time.  Furthermore these patterns appear to be robust, and conserved in genetically related populations that span the Pacific Ocean. These results suggest that specific environmental cues may elicit cross-species coordination of gene expression among diverse microbial groups that potentially enable multispecies coupling of metabolic activity. These data are leading to specific, testable hypotheses about how microbial interspecies matter and energy exchange may influence the cycling of matter and energy in the ocean.