The 2016 Division Outstanding Young Scientists Awards is awarded to Federico Baltar for his outstanding achievements in biological oceanography, marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry.
Federico Baltar’s research in biological oceanography integrates marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. His investigations, mainly focused on the role of microbes on the marine biogeochemical cycles, try to follow a multidisciplinary approach, always with the aim to draw connections between different scientific disciplines. Baltar’s work, in collaboration with many other colleagues, has revealed a critical link between different physical features (e.g. mesoscale eddies, fronts, etc.) and the crucial role played by the engines driving biogeochemical cycles (i.e., marine microbes). His research on the role of marine microbes on the deep ocean biogeochemical cycles has also shed light on the less known but the largest habitat in the biosphere. This work revealed evidences of microbial metabolism on suspended particulate organic matter in the dark waters suggesting a greater role of suspended particles in the ocean’s carbon cycle than assumed hitherto.
His research also helped reconcile oceanic carbon budgets, in particular the enigmatic major mismatch between the organic carbon demand of the deep-water heterotrophic microbiota and the sinking organic carbon supply rates, by finding that a major fraction of those non-sinking organic carbon particles were produced by in situ dark CO2 fixation. His aim to arrive at a mechanistic understanding of how the marine biogeochemical cycles are regulated have also driven him to combine the study of the microbial activities and carbon transformation rates with the use of molecular techniques. This combination of tools allowed revealing that regulatory interactions between dissolved organic carbon quality and central metabolic pathways critically determine the fitness of surface ocean bacteria and how anthropogenic perturbations will affect the critical role played by marine microbes.