MBA Research Fellow and Lecturer in Marine Microbiology at the University of Plymouth, Dr Michael Cunliffe, is among 329 top researchers across Europe who have been awarded Consolidator Grants, the European Research Council (ERC) announced yesterday.
Fungi are the great decomposers, breaking down complex organic material and making it available for growth, but they aren’t just found in the woods. The MYCO-CARB (FUNCTIONAL BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY OF PLANKTONIC MARINE FUNGI – Revealing the mechanistic basis of the roles of mycoplankton in the marine carbon cycle) research programme, led by the MBA, has received €1.9m to fill the gap in our understanding of fungi in the sea.
The roles that marine planktonic fungi (mycoplankton) fulfil in marine ecosystems have been largely ignored compared to other plankton groups, such as phytoplankton. Until we understand how mycoplankton fit alongside better-studied microbes in the cycling of carbon in the sea, we can only have a partial grasp of how marine ecosystems work. The MYCO-CARB project will address these knowledge gaps through an innovative programme of research including measurements of the types and abundances of mycoplankton at sea, and molecular ecology tools and ecosystem modelling will establish the impact of fungi on the marine carbon cycle.
Dr Cunliffe will lead the research, which will take place at the MBA over the next five years. He said, “The MYCO-CARB research programme is very exciting as it will allow us to open the marine fungal ‘black box’, revealing marine mycoplankton functional biology and ecology, and establishing their roles in the marine carbon cycle.”
The funding, part of the EU's Horizon 2020 programme, is worth in total €630 million and will give awardees a chance to have far-reaching impact on science and beyond.
Visit Dr Cunliffe's research pages, and follow him on Twitter @sea_bugs