Current and Potential Research Applications

Marine Sciences:

  • Identification and sorting of subpopulations of phytoplankton which have activated programmed cell death pathways in response to viral infection and nutrient depletion; characterizing in situ marine ectohydrolase activities for specific microbial subpopulations.
  • Use of fluorescent-based probes to sort microbial populations encased in ancient Antarctic ice over geologic time scales.
  • Assesing the physiological ecology of phytoplankton subpopulations.
  • Assessment of the photosynthetic niche specialization among subpopulations of phytoplankton and coral cell cultures.
  • Determination of trace metal quotas for specific subpopulations of phytoplankton.
  • Assessing the genetic diversity and population dynamics of marine microbes.
  • Detection and sorting of phosphorus-limited cells from natural populations in the Sargasso Sea and Bermuda Atlantic Time Series.
  • Isolation and characerization of subpopulations of the parasite Perkinsus marinus, which selectively infects oysters and razor clams.
  • Use of chromosomal sorting to assess the effect of polyploidy to disease resistance in the eastern oyster, Crossosstria virginica.

Environmental Sciences

  • Use in biodegradation studies to determine which community members able to utilize and detoxify selected hazardous substrates.
  • Targetted separation of abiotic vs. biotic marine particles for assessment of differing chemical bind loads.
  • Interrogation of microbial populations that differ with respect to their ability to associate with and degrade non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs)
  • Use in bioremediation of sediments and groundwater and anaerobic digestion of sludges and waste biomass; quantifying specific bacterial or archael groups and the expressionof specific functional genes associated with in situ rates of dechlorination of dioxins and PCBs.
  • Quantitaion and isolation of microorganisms comprising the atmospheric biosphere; assessing microbial genetic mutation by cosmic radiation in the atmosphere.


  • Examining the population dynamics and phenotypic plasticity of protist species in response to environmental variation; assessing species diversity and community composition.

Environmental and Agricultural Biotechnology

  • Identification and separation of specific bacterial symbionts of marine sponges for elucidation of natural product synthesis.


  • Targetted quantitation and isolation of specific microbial subpopulations of bacteria and archaea from hydrothermal vents.
  • Assessing horizontal gene transfer of metal resistance genes and its role in the fitness of microbial communities in metal contaminated environments.

Plant Biology/Pathology

  • Examination of fungal isolates to elucidate differences in Turfgrass disease; investigating the function of viral genes in disease of cranberries and blueberries.
  • Investigation of ‘biological control’ microorganisms that are antagonistic to plant pathogens as effective disease control; assessment of gene expression and regulation for extracellular degradative enzymes and antibiotic production.

The Saba Lab conducts research to understand the response of marine organisms to changes in their environment, and how those responses feedback into the ecosystem. We focus on the propagation of anthropogenic changes through communities and ecosystems. Specifically, we want to better understand how climate variability and long-term change affect individual organisms, food webs, biogeochemical cycles, and export processes.

List of links for more detail:

In the summer of 1983 “Every breath you take…” by The Police was on everybody’s lips. But did you know that every other breath you take comes from the ocean, produced by microscopic phytoplankton? We refer to this process as primary production, because it is the most basic process to convert the energy from the sun into chemical forms of energy that can be used by higher organisms.

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Why is the sea salty? That’s probably the first chemistry question we ask our students in Introduction to Oceanography. Some ancient folk tales will have you believe that the source of the salt is a magic mill that was accidentally dropped on the bottom of the sea where it continues to crank out salt. Turns out there is some truth to these folk tales, only that the ‘magic mill’ is on land, not in the ocean. 

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As the saying goes: ”What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. Well, turns out the ocean is not as good at keeping a secret. Most of what happens in the ocean ends up on the seafloor. As such, sediments are the long-term memory of the ocean, a window into what Earth looked like thousands or even millions of years back in time. From this muddy library we can learn about the rise and fall of the sea as polar ice sheets have come and gone.

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In the 2004 disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” New York City suddenly finds itself engulfed in thick ice within the matter of days after a series of superstorms hit the East coast. Apparently these storms were triggered by global warming, which paradoxically causes extreme cooling in New York. Cue Jake Gyllenhaal to come to the rescue. Sounds crazy, right? Well, fear not, it is indeed complete hogwash.

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