By Stefan Helmreich
Alien Ocean immerses readers in worlds being newly explored by means of marine biologists, worlds frequently out of sight and succeed in: the deep sea, the microscopic realm, and oceans past nationwide obstacles. operating along scientists at sea and in labs in Monterey Bay, Hawai'i, the Woods gap Oceanographic establishment, and the Sargasso Sea and at undersea volcanoes within the japanese Pacific, Stefan Helmreich charts how revolutions in genomics, bioinformatics, and distant sensing have pressed marine biologists to work out the ocean as lively via its smallest population: marine microbes. Thriving in astonishingly severe stipulations, such microbes became key figures in clinical and public debates concerning the starting place of existence, weather swap, biotechnology, or even the opportunity of existence on different worlds.
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Additional resources for Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas
Marine microbes are the linchpins not only of marine food webs, and thus ocean life, but indeed the linchpins of global biogeochemistry, global ecology. They are the" spark of life"; not only do they hold clues to the first sparks of life, and the accretion of those sparks into the mighty flame we now behold around us, but they remain the great Spark. They fuel the biosphere, they transform waste into nutrients, they adapt. I've never been religious, but my heart just sings to contemplate the miracle of this planet's complexity, how much sense it makes, how beneath every layer there's another and yet we can piece together the workings and learn new emergent principles.
The paper that Steven eventually publishes in Science, "Reverse Methanogenesis: Testing the Hypothesis with Environmental Genomics," begins by pointing out that "microbial methane consumption in anoxic sediments significantly impacts the global environment by reducing the flux of greenhouse gases from ocean to atmosphere"67 and, after arguing that a better characterization of microbial metabolism is on the way, leaves it at that, as well the paper might, since the study does not reach into methods and theory from climate science.
Like the same-named fire-breathing monster of Greek mythology, such chimeras do not exist in nature; like mermicrobes, they are tangles of the natural and cultural. But, Steven cautions, the creation of such hybrids does not make of this kind of biology Frankensteinian endeavor. Cloning microbial genes does not immediately scale up to the science-fiction-style cloning controversies that make the cover of Time-though, as I puzzle over plasmids, Pete joins Steven, shakes his head, and remarks that he shies away from telling more religious family members that his job entails cloning; they have been known to scold him for toying with creation.