Thermodynamically Constrained Metabolic Networks for Ocean Modeling

Joe Vallino
Marine Biological Laboratory

Predicting how marine chemistry and biology will respond to global change is a pressing issue for society. This project will develop new modeling techniques for predicting such changes using ideas derived from physics in the subdiscipline of thermodynamics that concerns how energy moves in a system. Recent advancements in thermodynamics indicate that systems will internally organize so as to maximize the flow and dissipation of energy. For example, the temperature difference that develops between the ocean and atmosphere over the summer drives the formation of hurricanes (the organized structures), the presence of which hastens dissipation of the temperature difference.

This project utilizes this fundamental property but extends it to microbial communities, such as bacteria and phytoplankton, which form the base of the ocean food web and strongly influence ocean chemistry. Based on information on how biology utilizes solar and chemical energy to construct itself from carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements in the environment, the model can predict how metabolic functions, such as photosynthesis or nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere, are expressed over time and space within the ocean.

CBIOMES Collaborators in Vallino’s Group

News from the Vallino Group

Using MEP to Describe Microbial Biogeochemistry over Time and Space in a Meromictic Pond

by Helen Hill for CBIOMES CBIOMES investigator Joe Vallino leverages the principle of maximum entropy production (MEP) to understand microbial biogeochemistry in a Falmouth, MA pond. (more…)