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About the Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet (C-CoMP)

Mission Statement

One-quarter of the carbon derived from photosynthesis on Earth cycles rapidly through a pool of seawater metabolites generated by the activities of microbes. These molecules help govern the global carbon cycle, provide life-supporting nutrients, and support the function of marine food webs that ensure a vital and healthy ocean.

The Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet (C-CoMP) leverages recent advances in analytical and data sciences, incorporates new ocean sampling technologies and an open-science framework, and engages scientists, educators, and policy-makers who bring a diversity of expertise, experiences, and viewpoints to bear on promoting a deeper understanding and appreciation of the chemicals and microbial processes that underpin ocean ecosystems and other microbiomes that affect our daily life.

The ocean carbon cycle shows the flux of carbon through the surface and deep ocean. Air-sea CO2 exchange serves as the input for CO2 into the surface ocean. In the surface ocean, carbon exists in pools of CO2 and labile Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC). Of the estimated 50 petagrams of carbon per year in the CO2 pool, 23 petagrams of carbon per year enter the labile DOC pool while 25 petagrams of carbon per year meet other fates. 2 petagrams of carbon per year within the labile DOC pool are converted into non-labile forms and sink to the deep sea. For more information see Moran et al. (2022). Figure created by WHOI Creative Studio.

Video Overview

If you would like to learn more about C-CoMP, please view this video narrated by C-CoMP Director Elizabeth Kujawinski. This video provides context for the formation of C-CoMP, identifies C-CoMP's grand challenge, introduces C-CoMP's research and educational programs, and shares C-CoMP's approach to building a collaborative, integrated, and supportive research community. This video was created for our second Site Visit with the National Science Foundation.

Center Research Objectives

C-CoMP supports 14 senior personnel, working in interdisciplinary teams (involving undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, technicians, and support staff) with novel approaches and open science practices to resolve major outstanding knowledge gaps at the heart of the global carbon cycle:

          (1) the chemical currencies of surface ocean carbon flux

          (2) the chemical-microbe network in the surface ocean

          (3) network sensitivity and feedbacks on climate.

These research focus areas are resistant to study and not yet integrated into global earth systems models, but central components of Earth’s carbon cycle. Given their complexity and urgency, these focus areas can only be addressed through a sustained network of scientists, students, and educators who work together to achieve research goals while expanding ocean science literacy efforts and broadening the workforce able to tackle multi-disciplinary problems. 

Accordingly, C-CoMP is structured on three scaffolds that underpin research and link to education and outreach efforts. At the center are the Science Themes, representing critical knowledge gaps in metabolite-driven carbon cycling that govern the fate of a quarter of Earth’s primary production. The Critical Challenges scaffold represents current technological and conceptual roadblocks to knowledge building. The Enabling Tools and Technologies scaffold represents the emerging technologies to be created or repurposed to resolve scientific roadblocks.

Broadening participation

Broadening participation in the ocean sciences requires full engagement of diverse stakeholders in accomplishing C-CoMP research and education goals. We are doing this by:

             (1) expanding ocean literacy in K-12 populations and in the general public;

             (2) supporting undergraduate involvement in ocean science research; and

             (3) improving the transition to graduate school with our Bridge-to-PhD (B2P) program.

Our overarching approach involves positioning everyone in the Center as both a scientist and an educator. This means that learners at all levels are collaborating to work with real ocean science data and are being mentored in ocean science research. Futhermore, we work to provide multiple entry points for individuals from diverse backgrounds with diverse experiences and perspectives to explore ocean science research as a career path. For early career researchers pursuing this path, we work to advance their professional skills and networks in support of their career pursuits. Finally, our efforts to broaden participation are grounded in education research and theory related to teaching, learning, equity, and career development, and aim to contribute to these bodies of knowledge. All of our efforts to broaden participation are consistent with our mission to bring a diversity of expertise, experiences, and viewpoints to bear on promoting a deeper understanding and appreciation of the chemicals and microbial processes that underpin ocean ecosystems and other microbiomes that affect our daily life.

Five researchers are surrounding a niskin ctd rosette after samples have been collected on a research vessel. Three people are collected seawater directly from the niskin bottles while two people are looking at a datasheet.
Sampling occurs day and night and here two students help the marine technician recover the rosette during a 2013 cruise to the South Atlantic. Image credit: Elizabeth Kujawinski, WHOI.