Erin Bertrand

Assistant Professor, Tier II CRC Chair in Marine Microbial Proteomics
BSc: Bates College, Lewiston Maine (2005)
PhD: MIT/WHOI Joint Program (2012)
US NSF Polar Programs Postdoctoral Fellow, J. Craig Venter Institute and Scripps Inst. Oceanography
  • Research and Teaching
  • Students' Research Projects
  • Publications
  • Links
  • esearch:
        Background: Oceanic microbes conduct a range of functions that are essential for the maintenance of life on earth, including the production of half of the oxygen in our atmosphere and the synthesis of organic carbon that supports fishery resources. The goals of my research program are advance our understanding of what controls these important marine microbial processes.
        Marine microbes, just like humans, require micronutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamins for survival. In the oceans, these micronutrients are largely scarce and their concentrations vary by orders of magnitude over short time and spatial scales. There is competition for these limited resources, but there are also ways in which microbes cooperate to share, produce and consume micronutrients efficiently.

           Goals: My research program will focus on developing new tools to understand (1) when and where in the ocean the availability of these micronutrients shapes how much oxygen and carbon are produced in marine ecosystems, (2) how organisms cooperate or compete to make the most of these scarce resources and (3) how relationships between important groups of marine microbes are driven by demand for these micronutrients.
    This work requires extensive laboratory culturing and examination of marine microbes, including phytoplankton and bacteria, under defined conditions. Results from laboratory studies will be used to design and implement measurements reflecting micronutrient demand and supply in natural communities in the ocean, with field sites including the Antarctic Southern Ocean and the Scotian Shelf.
         The information gained through these studies will contribute novel insights into how productivity will change in the ocean, how this may impact fisheries resources, and the potential for harmful algal blooms. Students who work in my laboratory will gain skills for developing innovative protein diagnostics, advanced microscopy, and microbial culturing approaches.  These skills will be of use in future careers in basic research as well as environmental monitoring, biotechnology, and the health sciences.
    Classes in which Erin currently teaches:
    Examples of Students' Projects
    • The role of vitamin B12 in structuring microbial communities in the Scotian Shelf
    • Interactive effects of zinc, iron, and vitamin B12 starvation in the North Atlanic
    • Using genetically manipulated diatoms to study the role of micronutrient demand in shaping diatom microbiomes
    • Comparative proteomics of algal- bacterial associations and trace nutrient limitation in algae
    • Mapping vitamin and iron starvation indicator protein abundance in the Antarctic Southern Ocean

    Selected Publications


    In press. 
    E. M. Bertrand, J. P. McCrow, A. Moustafa, H. Zheng, J. McQuaid, T. Delmont, A. Post, R. Sipler, J. Spackeen, K. Xu, D. Bronk, D. Hutchins, A. Allen. Phytoplankton-bacterial interactions mediate micronutrient colimitation at the coastal Antarctic sea ice edge. PNAS.  

    R. W. Paerl, E. M. Bertrand, A.E. Allen, B. Palenik, F. Azam.  Vitamin B1 ecophysiology of marine picoeukaryotic algae: Strain-specific differences and a  new role for bacteria in vitamin cycling.  Limnology and Oceanography. 60, 215-228

    E.M. Bertrand
    , D.M. Moran, M.R. McIlvin, J.M. Hoffman, A.E. Allen, M. A. Saito. Methionine synthase interreplacement in diatom cultures and communities: Implications for the persistence of B12 use by eukaryotic phytoplankton. Limnology and Oceanography.58(4) DOI: 10.4319/lo.2013.58.4.1431

    E.M. Bertrand, A. E. Allen., C.L. Dupont, T. Norden-Kirchmar, J. Bai, R. E. Valas, M.A Saito.  Impact of cobalamin starvation on diatom molecular physiology and the identification of a novel cobalamin acquisition protein. PNAS 109(26). (*Faculty of 1000 Biology  “Recommended” article).  doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201731109

    M. A. Saito, E. M. Bertrand, S. Dutkiewicz , V. V. Bulygin, D. M. Moran, F. M. Monteiro, M. J. Follows, F. W. Valois, J. B. Waterbury.  Iron conservation by reduction of metalloenzyme inventories in the marine diazotroph Crocosphaera watsonii. PNAS. 108 (6) 2184-2189.  Link

    E. M. Bertrand, M.A. Saito, J.M. Rose, C. R. Riesselman, M.C. Lohan, A. E. Noble, P.A. Lee, G. R. Ditullio. Vitamin B12 and iron co-limitation of phytoplankton growth in the  Ross Sea.  Limnology and Oceanography. 52 (3) 1079-1093 (*Faculty of 1000 Biology  “Recommended” article). Link