Skidaway scientist is published in prestigious journal

Mike Sullivan writes:

One of our professor, Jay Brandes, just had an article published in the journal “Science.” That is one of the “big ones.” Here is the full information, as we sent it out to the news media.

Skidaway Institute professor published in ‘Science’

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Jay Brandes is the co-author of a scientific article published in the May 2, 2008 issue of the prestigious journal Science.

Brandes worked with Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Ellery Ingall and his Ph.D. student Julia Diaz, as well as with physicists at the Argonne National Laboratory.

Using state of the art X-ray microscopes capable of chemical imaging within cells, the team discovered a new mechanism for the removal of the vital nutrient phosphorus from the marine ecosystem. Diatoms, an abundant microscopic plant found in the oceans, were found to produce concentrated polymeric phosphorus particles only a few millionths of an inch across. After the diatoms die, these particles “seed” underlying sediments with the precursors needed to form long-lasting calcium phosphate minerals. Their findings explain a long-standing, fundamental mystery regarding the way phosphorus is cycled through marine systems.

Phosphorus is a vital nutrient element required by all organisms. In addition to being a key nutrient, phosphorus is also an important pollutant which, when discharged, is often the primary cause of low oxygen levels in lakes, rivers and coastal waters. Because of this, understanding the cycling and sequestration of phosphorus is also important to water treatment and mariculture systems which can produce large quantities of phosphorus enriched waste.

“The startling thing about this result is that polymeric phosphates, long thought to be short-lived energy storage molecules, actually are responsible for permanently — at least, on our timescales — removing phosphorus from the ocean,” said Brandes. “This appears to be a very widespread yet overlooked phenomenon that could help regulate nutrient concentrations as pollution levels rise in rivers and estuaries”

The journal Science is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
(AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific organization. This work was funded through a grant to Brandes and Ingall by the National Science Foundation.

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