Bringing the paradigm for marine pelagic production into the 21st century: incorporating mixotrophy into mainstream marine research
The conceptual basis upon which management tools for our ocean, seas and coasts have operated are out-of-date. Development of management tools and policies to predict fish production and global change in marine waters operates within a paradigm that builds on a simple division between “plant-like” phytoplankton and their main consumers, the microzooplankton at the base of the food chain. Recently research led by the applicants of the MixITiN programme has shown that this plant-animal paradigm represents at the least a gross simplification, if not a falsehood. The new revised paradigm recognises that most phytoplankton and as much as half the microzooplankton actually combine both plant-like photosynthesis and animal-like consumer activity within the same single-cell. This form of nutrition, “mixotrophy”, supports the growth of organisms important for food chains and biogeochemical cycles removing atmospheric CO2; mixotrophs are also causative agents in harmful algal bloom events. As a consequence of this revised paradigm, traditional laboratory and field research approaches, management policies and allied computer modelling tools, are arguably no longer fit for purpose.
The objective of MixITiN is to develop and deploy new methodologies for researching, monitoring and modelling the base of the mixotroph-centric marine food chain to aid in the updating of environmental management tools and policies. The objectives will be delivered by a team of 4 universities (Swansea University, Kobenhavns Universitet, Universite Libre De Bruxelles Universite Pierre et Marie Curie), 3 research institutions (Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research) and 3 non-academic providers (AP Marine, Deltares, Fundacion AZTI), from 9 countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Spain, UK).
MixITiN will train 11 early stage researchers (ESRs) in skill sets from molecular biology, ecophysiology and computer modelling, to environmental management, public and media engagement. The ESRs will thus be trained in multi-national and multi-disciplinary centres of excellence, with comprehensive engagement of academics as well as non-academics, to enable them to gain employment in a range of different sectors such as consultancy, government, academic, or allied industries. The synergy of training approaches provided to the ESRs will raise their capabilities and progress the field beyond the current state-of-the-art.
General enquires concerning the MixITiN programme should be submitted to the Project Coordinator, Dr Aditee MITRA
General information regarding the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions scheme is available here.