During my PhD at Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, I studied how tiny microscopic organisms called microalgae could be used to curb the release of anthropogenic CO2 to the environment. One of the major sources of CO2 is industrial flue gas, which is released due to coal combustion in thermal power plants. CO2 is one of the main greenhouse gases, which can cause global warming and climate change. An energy efficient and environment friendly approach to capture CO2 from industrial flue gas is needed. I isolated a freshwater microalga, Scenedesmus obliquus which showed tolerance to the high CO2 concentration and temperature that are typical of industrial flue gas. I exposed the microalga to even higher CO2 concentrations, and found that high concentration of CO2 increased the amounts of total lipid and chlorophyll, making it a suitable candidate for biofuel production.
During my postdoctoral research, I aim to increase the understanding of how picocyanobacteria respond to multiple global change variables, and to elucidate the physiological mechanisms that give rise to these responses. The impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 level goes beyond the terrestrial ecosystem, because oceans absorb more than a quarter of the CO2 produced by humans. Much of this CO2 is captured by picocyanobacteria, the most abundant photosynthetic organisms on earth. Picocyanobacteria have a major impact on global carbon cycle and contribute up to 50% of fixed carbon in the open ocean. It is currently unknown how global change will impact picocyanobacteria on a global scale, where ocean acidification, warming, changes in light intensity, and changes in nutrient availability are all expected to occur from global change. However, multiple driver experiments are necessary to predict the interactive effects of global change on these important group of organisms.