Connor Stonesifer ’16
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Lignin Phenols in Microbial and Marine Organic Matter Production in the Open Ocean
As an intern for the Bermuda Bio Optics Program, I worked with scientists at the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences (BIOS) to investigate a class of dissolved organic molecules within the ocean known as chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM). CDOM acts as a kind of sunscreen, regulating the amount of UV-Vis light that penetrates the subsurface ocean. In acting as a light-limiter, CDOM can control the photosynthetic activity of the ocean’s primary producers. By studying the molecules in CDOM, we can better understand how the underwater light field is regulated and come to a more accurate picture of the health of the marine ecosystem. My summer research focused specifically on one molecule within the CDOM pool: lignin, a plant-based polymer. I worked alongside a photochemist and a microbiologist on two experiments that tested the hypothesis that lignin is degraded by the metabolic processes of marine microbes within the Sargasso Sea. Wonderfully, our data supported our hypothesis! I studied and implemented analytical chemistry techniques, had access to top-notch scientific equipment, and had the pleasure of being able to shed light on a really interesting question in oceanic research. This summer has taught me skills in critical thinking and experimental planning that I know will be invaluable in my senior thesis research.
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), Bermuda
Natasha McDonald, Bermuda Institute of Oceanic Sciences