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Federico M. Lauro, Ph.D.

Federico M.  Lauro pioneered citizen oceanography, proving that a combination of innovative, cost-effective technologies and world cruiser involvement extensively broadens the scope of microbiological oceanography, driving the field into a new era of high output, high resolution, predictive science. He is a world leading expert in the marine microbiome, which underpins the food web and is critical for sustaining the health of global marine environments.

In 2013, Professor Lauro cofounded Indigo V Expeditions and, together with his team, sailed across the Indian Ocean from Cape Town to Singapore to prove that crowd-sourced ocean data can make a valuable contribution to microbial oceanography at a fraction of the cost of traditional research vessels. The Indigo Project, directed by Lauro, is a worldwide citizen oceanography program that has so far collected the largest repository of planktonic genomic information in the world in a single season.

In addition to establishing the first ocean health baseline across the Indian Ocean, Lauro and his team also identified unique microbiome communities from samples collected within the Salomon Island Atoll, Chagos Archipelago. Results from this study provided the first snapshot of the unique microbial community of a pristine marine habitat and highlights the need to employ globally scaled projects to better understand the marine microbiome, which is extremely sensitive to climate change and anthropogenic input.

Additionally, Professor Lauro has developed skills in both experimental and computational sciences – in particular, deep-sea microbiology, and the latest “omic” technologies essential for deriving a clear and thorough understanding of microbial communities and ecosystem function. In pursuing the creation of bioinformatic tools for analyzing and modeling large datasets, involving a broad range of PERL-programming and implementation of open-source software, Lauro has achieved expert proficiency in microbial genomics. Along with his pursuit of marine microbial environments, Lauro is extending his exploration to that of the air microbiome. These culminating efforts are shifting the paradigm in which marine conservation efforts focus on larger animals and plants of the ecosystem to now focus on the microorganisms that fortify healthy ecosystems.

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste