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DST awards research projects to the young talent of NIO
The Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India had initiated FAST track Young Scientists programme in the year 2000. This is aimed at providing quick research support to young scientists to pursue their bright ideas in newly emerging and front line areas of research in science and engineering.
Following researchers at NIO had recently applied for funding under this programme and considering the research topic, DST encouraged them. This is a good news for NIO since five of NIO researchers received encouragement in the from of a research grant. Here is the description of their projects.
Title: Benthic-pelagic linking: a tool to study marine ecosystem functioning
Project Investigator: Dr. Sumit Mandal
About the work: With increasing threats of over-exploitation of marine species, destruction of coastal habitats, introduction of exotic species, pollution of nearshore coastal waters and climate change, contribution towards better understanding of the early life history processes enables marine ecologists to make useful and valid predictions about natal recruitment of marine species. Benthic macro invertebrates have bipartite life history, a dispersing planktonic larval stage that spends some time
(depending on the species and type of larval development) in pelagic realm, before returning to benthic environment. By studying one phase of this lifecycle, it is virtually impossible to draw conclusions about population dynamics. So it is imperative to know the events starting from spawning and release of propagules (i.e. gametes/larvae) by adults, larval dispersal, to recruitment and survival after settlement. For benthic invertebrates, the first few months or even days after settlement are considered the most vulnerable period. Transition between the habitats prior to the adult stage includes many important but poorly known events in their life histories. The ‘benthic-pelagic linking’ approach is lacking in most routine benthic or planktonic studies. Therefore, from an ecological perspective, filling the gap between pre- and post settlement events is essential to gain a comprehensive picture. In proposed study the relative importance of pre- versus post-settlement events in soft bottom communities, integrating both pelagic and benthic phases of studied animal’s life cycles will be taken up.
Title: Benthic foraminiferal responses to environmental stresses: Refining proxy applications through experimental studies
Project Investigator: Dr. V.N. Linshy
About the work: The successful application of foraminiferal characteristics to infer the past climatic/ oceanographic reconstructions, various ecological studies like marine pollution studies make them a widely accepted and practically applied proxy compared to other microorganisms. The experimental studies on foraminifera help to refine the difference in the foraminiferal characteristics from physico-chemically different environments as observed in the field. Experimental studies on foraminifera are a fast evolving and an important branch of foraminiferal research. In the laboratory, parameters can be altered in such a way that the response of foraminifera to specific parameters can be studied in isolation as well as in desired combinations also. The increasing paleontological need for the fundamental biological processes of foraminifera for a better interpretation of the field based foraminiferal findings stimulated the laboratory studies during the past few decades, leaving this part of the world still at a rudimentary stage in experimental studies on foraminifera. A basic concern of this project would be establishing as much as benthic foraminiferal cultures successfully in the laboratory, so that the important physiological processes of foraminifera like the growth phases, maturity, mode of reproduction at a reasonably normal rate is better understood and we can provide culture populations that constitute a permanent and dependable source for further studies. The record of foraminiferal response to specific parameters (natural as well as anthropogenic) and qualitative/quantitative interpretations from experiments through various analyses in conjunction with some contemporary techniques will be attempted in view of refining the use of foraminiferal proxies for various applications.
Title: Diversity and role of microorganisms associated with marine zooplankton, with particular reference to Labyrinthulomycetes
Principal Investigator: Dr. Varada Samir Damare
About the work: Zooplankton play an important role in shaping pelagic ecosystems by controlling phytoplankton production. Zooplankton communities in turn are shaped by predation by fish. Zooplankton harbour high numbers of microorganisms on and inside their bodies and move attached organisms through the water column while performing diel vertical migration. Bacteria colonize the guts, faecal pellets as well as body surfaces of zooplankton. They are food source for zooplankton. They provide nutrients like essential amino acids and vitamins and enhance the host digestive abilities by contributing enzymes. Nutrients are thus incorporated in the body of zooplankton through food. Amongst the nutrients, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for their growth and reproduction but they are unable to produce them. Hence their requirement for PUFAs needs to be fulfilled solely through nutrition. Hence organisms that are a source of these fatty acids are important determinants of this energy supply to zooplankton. Labyrinthulomycetes are one such kind of organisms that produce high amounts of PUFAs, especially docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Owing to this property, these organisms have gained increased biotechnological importance. DHA from these organisms has been commercially exploited. These exclusively marine osmoheterotrophic protists also have several other potential applications in biotechnology, such as production of carotenoids and industrially useful enzymes. These organisms have been grouped under the Kingdom Stramenopila. These comprise 3 groups of organisms, the thraustochytrids, labyrinthulids and aplanochytrids, differentiated from each other by their life cycle and presence of different cell wall sugars. Labyrinthulomycetes are now known to form a very important component of the marine microbial consortium, often occurring in very high biomass, comparable to that of the bacteria. By virtue of production of extracellular enzymes and the presence of DHA, which is essential for growth and reproduction of marine crustaceans, they are bound to play an important role in the marine ecosystem. It is likely that in-depth studies on their relation to the mesozooplankton in the water column, the major crustacean component of the seas, will shed light on the dynamics of zooplankton ecology. The proposed project will describe the diversity of Labyrinthulomycetes in the coastal waters and also shed light on the dynamics of zooplankton ecology. The studies would also provide us with novel species of Labyrinthulomycetes which would be very good source of DHA and could be used for industrial production in future.
Title: Effect of different concentration of gases on benthic foraminifera under laboratory culture experiment
Principal Investigator: Sujata Kurtarkar Raikar
About the work: Ever increasing human population has harmed mother earth by increasing the concentration of green house gases in the atmosphere. Increase in concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is one of the major issues of concern today, as it is directly related to global warming and other climate changes. The CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases whose concentration is increasing day by day due to the industrialization, increase in number of vehicles, etc. The increased concentration of carbon dioxide not only affects the atmosphere, but also the ocean as there is continuous exchange of gases at the ocean-atmosphere interface. The ocean takes up larger part of the atmospheric green house gases, especially the carbon dioxide. Higher concentration of dissolved CO2 in the oceans leads to decrease in the ocean pH, a phenomena often termed as ocean acidification. The marine microorganisms whose skeleton (whether endoskeleton or exoskeleton) is made up of calcite are adversely affected by the ocean acidification. One such microorganism, foraminifera which are unicellular and preferentially marine constitute large percentage of the marine sediments. Their hard outer shell which is, mostly made up of calcite, helps in removal of atmospheric carbon to a large extent. They are very sensitive to the slightest change in the ambient environment and have good preservation potential. Therefore, foraminifera are able to store the changes taking place in the ambient environment (natural as well as anthropogenic) in their shell. The aim of the project is to study how benthic foraminifera respond to ocean acidification.
Title: High resolution numerical model for tidal corrections of Altimeter data in the Indian Ocean Basin
Project Investigator: Dr. N. T. Manoj
About the work: Sea level variations in the ocean, especially in the coastal regions are of great interest for scientific community who are engaged in studying sea level variations and its role on various physical processes in the ocean and atmosphere. Accurate data sets of sea level are essential to study many oceanographic phenomena such as Indian Ocean Dipole, El-Nino signals, etc. Sea level data from the satellite altimetry (for e.g. TOPEX/POSIDON) have contributed tremendously to the study of ocean dynamics in various time scales in the deep seas. However the sea level data derived from altimeter lacks quality along the coastal regions. Sea level simulations from global models are also not very accurate near the coastal regions due to their low resolution model grids. In this above perspective, a need has arisen to set up a regional high resolution numerical model for the accurate simulation of tides for the Indian Ocean especially along the coastal regions where the tidal actions and its implications on coastal dynamics are very significant. During the proposed research work, a two dimensional numerical model with high resolution grids of about 5.5 to 11 km will be used for the simulation of tides using an improved bathymetry data. Present study will not only help to separate tidal signals from altimeter data of sea level but also will help to enhance the understanding of ocean dynamics in various time scales in the Indian Ocean Basin.
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