By Lizzy Wilbanks, Microbiology
I study “pink berries”— centimeter-sized, round, pink balls of bacteria found at the sediment-water interface of intertidal pools in the Sippewissett salt marsh in Falmouth, Mass.
Although these mysterious bacteria have not been grown in the laboratory, I’ve been able to eavesdrop on the metabolic “conversations” between these microbes using cutting-edge technology.
My work has revealed a previously unrecognized partnership between two sulfur-metabolizing bacterial species. Using methods borrowed from the field of geology, I have visualized this as an intimate cooperation on a nanometer scale and shown how nutrients (specifically sulfur) are recycled within the pink berry aggregates.
I have assembled genomes for the pink berry microbes, clarifying the pathways that drive their metabolism.
My work has added to our understanding nutrient cycling in the Sippewissett marsh and provided a model system for studying nutrient cycles at the microbial scale.
Keep up with Lizzy’s research on her lab Web page, on Twitter @LizzyWilbanks (all science all the time) or through a recent project publication.