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Dr Coco Koedooder

What is your field of expertise?

I'm a marine microbiologist specialised in iron metabolism. Throughout my research, I use molecular tools and techniques to focus on the physiological and adaptive response of marine bacteria to iron. I am currently researching Trichodesmium, a bloom-forming Cyanobacteria present in the Red Sea, in Eilat.  I focus on the interactions taking place between Trichodesmium, their associated bacteria using bioinformatics (e.g metagenomics and metatranscriptomics), to try and understand how these microbes can work together as a community to obtain iron from dust.  

Tell us briefly about your academic path?

I conducted my bachelor in biology at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) where I was first introduced to the enigmatic world of microbes and their ecology. I continued to an international master program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (EMBRC) - taking courses in microbiology and oceanography at the University of Gent (Belgium) and the Sorbonne University (France). My master thesis focused on the interactions of benthic diatoms and their associated bacteria - which can positively or negatively influence diatom growth, competition and ultimately productivity. 
I continued by pursuing a PhD in Marine Environmental Science at the Sorbonne University.  During my PhD, I worked with a model heterotrophic marine bacteria to explore adaptive mechanisms to iron limitation within the microbial cell. Through the construction and application of gene-knockouts and bioreporters, my work focused on the ability of a bacterium to reroute its metabolism when subjected to iron limitation. 
Currently, as a postdoctoral researcher I study how microbial interactions can influence iron uptake within natural microbial communities. I had the opportunity to learn and apply bioinformatic tools (metagenomic and metatranscriptomic analysis), in order to explore how Trichodesmium, a globally relevant cyanobacteria can interact with its associated bacteria to meet its iron requirements.

What type of research do you do (what excites you mostly)?

I am fascinated by ways a microbe can respond to an environmental stressor such as iron limitation and how interactions with other microbes can influence that response. Microbial interactions are never static and I truly enjoy researching their amazing ability to cope in ways we have never anticipated. This ongoing body of work highlights their flexibility and how microbial interactions extend the potential of one individual to that of the larger community. Such interactions likely have wider implications to ecosystem processes and have led me to wonder about the importance of metabolic plasticity as a relevant parameter when considering fluxes in biogeochemical cycles.

What are your professional plans/ aspirations?

I hope to keep expanding my understanding around the dynamic nature of microbial adaptations. As I develop academically and (slowly) become more independent, I hope to develop a multi-disciplinary and multi-collaborative framework to study the interplay between biology, ecology and biogeochemistry that is driving such systems. Such studies can help increase our understanding of metabolic feedback mechanisms and assess their influence on biochemical fluxes and cycles in the marine environment.

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