The Capone Lab: Background and research overview

The primary research theme of the Capone Lab is the cycling of Nitrogen in the marine environment. We have a particular interest in the biogeochemical and physiological factors controlling the marine nitrogen cycle. We have had a major focus on biological fixation, the enzymatic conversion of dinitrogen gas (N2) by certain marine microbes which results in the production of forms of nitrogen (e.g. ammonia) more useful to the ocean biota at large.

In recent years, the study of marine N2 fixation has been a highly active area of oceanographic research, with Dr. Capone and his lab key contributors to the literature in this field. Much of our work has involved the study of the Trichodesmium – an important nitrogen fixing (diazotroph) cyanobacteria. N2 fixation may be particularly important in nutrient poor areas of the ocean where the availability of nitrogen useful to the biota may limit rates of primary production, the formation of new organic matter, by marine phytoplankton.

Our research therefore has direct and important implications on the wider study of global climate systems, as the uptake of CO2 by marine organisms and its subsequent removal into the deep ocean, commonly referred to as the 'biological pump', represents a highly significant mechanism of CO2 sequestration. A better understanding of the biological and chemical controls on such processes is therefore a key component in uncovering the role of the Oceans in global climate interactions.

We are currently active in multiple research projects, with our most recent areas of study the tropical South Pacific, and the Amazon river plume in the Atlantic. We are also working in terrestrial lake environments, and have had recent research efforts in dry valley stream environments in Antarctica.

Please read more about our projects and graduate student research, and feel free to contact us with any questions.

The Capone Lab
University of Southern California
3616 Trousdale Pkwy., AHF 108
Los Angeles
CA 90089-0371

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Glossary (right hand side)
The study of biological, geological, chemical and physical systems in the natural environment.
Particular emphasis on Carbon, Nitrogen, Sulfur and Phosphorus cycles.
Comprises ~78% of the earth's atmosphere
Present in all living organisms
The triple bond in molecular Nitrogen (N2) is one of the strongest in chemistry.
Nitrogen fixation
The conversion of dinitrogen into biologically usable forms, such as ammonium.
Bacteria able to fix Nitrogen.
Nitrogenase enzyme is used to break the trivalent bond.
The Nitrogen Cycle
The movement of Nitrogen between chemical forms, and between the biosphere and the atmosphere.
A genus of diazotrophic filamentous cyanobacteria
Among the most significant marine nitrogen fixers