Michael Henson, LSU doctoral candidate, collects samples in the Gulf of Mexico.

Michael Henson, LSU doctoral candidate, collects samples in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Louisiana State University | Thrasher Lab.

Microbial creatures living in the world’s oceans are an important part of those ecosystems. Studying the ocean’s microbial life will help us understand the ocean’s ecosystem.

Research of this type could lead to interesting discoveries in a number of fields. However, scientists pursuing this area of study don’t understand these life forms even though they are frequently studied.

Several barriers stand between our quest for knowledge about these creatures and the actual insights we require.

Seawater looks the same when seen from a boat or a beach. But it isn’t all the same. Seawater varies in salinity, nutrients, and other factors when it’s sourced from different places.

Even in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, there are a variety of vintages of seawater. This makes studying these creatures in a laboratory environment difficult, because seawater is, traditionally, hard to replicate.

Researchers are about to break the barriers preventing progress. A team of scientists from Louisiana State University developed an artificial seawater medium that can be used to cultivate microbial organisms to allow for them to be studied more easily.

The chemicals involved allow scientists to recreate a variety of seawater vintages, and can be accessible anywhere in the world. This discovery allows labs not directly on coasts the tools needed to conduct research with these organisms, which otherwise would have required ready access to large quantities of seawater.

The team behind the new medium is hopeful that further study of oceanic microbial organisms will have a broad impact on a number of fields. The diversity of these creatures can tell us more about evolution and natural selection, and can help us better understand different oceanic ecosystems.

There could be some microbes that break down hydrocarbon, something that occurs regularly in the ocean, which might allow us to develop more ways to deal with CO2 and other dangerous greenhouse gasses. We might even be able to learn more about our own genetics by studying