Adam Kustka
physiology and ecology of phytoplankton; biogeochemistry

Newark Campus
Newark School of Arts and Sciences
Dept of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Dr. Kustka’s research focuses on the physiology and ecology of phytoplankton which collectively serve as the cornerstone of most coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems and a major driver of global climate. Although phytoplankton are responsible for ~40% of global CO2 fixation, this process is limited by iron (Fe) availability in about 30% of the World Ocean. We still don’t understand how different species compete for this scarce nutrient or how they minimize their Fe demand in Fe poor waters. In other regions of the ocean where Fe is not limiting, phytoplankton exert energy to concentrate CO2 from seawater, yet we have a poor understanding of the mechanism(s) employed, which groups use which mechanisms or how a CO2 rich world may affect the relative fitness of these groups.

Understanding fundamentals of Fe or C metabolism directly impacts our ability to predict the outcomes of rising atmospheric CO2 and land use changes. In this regard, my lab’s work, while mechanistically oriented, has global implications.

His lab combines emergent genome- enabled methods with classic physiological and kinetic approaches in the lab and field. An exciting era is upon us where the environmental physiology and underlying biochemistry of just about any organism can be studied in unprecedented ways due to advances in –omics and reverse genetics. His lab is increasingly utilizing the power of proteomics to better understand phytoplankton physiology and ecology.