Image Credit: Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Welcome to the Floge Lab. Our research focuses on marine microbial ecology in the context of ocean biogeochemical cycles. We study how microbes interact with one another and their environment, the chemical reactions that mediate such interactions, and the resulting impact on ecosystem scale carbon cycling. We are particularly interested in how marine viruses manipulate host cellular metabolism and consequent changes in microbial interactions and ecosystem function.

While we call our planet Earth, the majority of its surface is covered in water, in what we know as the global ocean. This vast body of water, covering over 70% of Earth’s surface and containing over 97% of all water on Earth, plays a critical role in sustaining life on Earth. Photosynthetic microorganisms in the ocean, called phytoplankton, take up atmospheric carbon dioxide and produce oxygen and organic carbon compounds utilized by other organisms. These microscopic organisms carry out half of Earth’s primary productivity (roughly equal to that by land plants), supporting life in the ocean and providing oxygen to the atmosphere. Due to their small size and underappreciated role in global photosynthesis, phytoplankton are sometimes called the invisible forest.  Phytoplankton are responsible for taking up nearly one quarter of anthropogenic fossil fuel based carbon dioxide emissions, transporting that carbon into ocean waters and thereby reducing global climate warming and associated negative impacts. However, during this time of rapid global change, it is unclear how ocean microbes will respond to continued ocean warming and acidification.  Will the oceans continue to take up carbon? At what rate? For how long will the carbon be stored? 

The Floge Laboratory investigates how interactions among diverse marine microbes control net primary productivity and biogeochemical cycling of elements essential to life. Our research focuses primarily on open ocean ecosystems and model organisms, and we are particularly interested in how predation by marine viruses and protists upon phytoplankton alters carbon and nutrient flux. Viruses have been called the ‘puppet masters’ of the sea due to their ability to manipulate host metabolic pathways during infection, and there is growing evidence that virus-infected cells are biochemically distinct from uninfected cells. Using a suite of ecological systems biology tools in both field and laboratory environments, we seek mechanistic insights into microbial interactions driving elemental cycles. 

Please see our research page for further description of current research projects.

Video Credit to Katelyn Smith and Miller Ligon, MSc 2021