Research: Development of Biological Sensors to Detect Harmful Microbes in the Coastal Ocean; Development of "Grouper Forensics" to Detect Authenticity of Seafood in Restaurants and Seafood Suppliers; Importance of Silent Viral Infections on Life in the Seas; Mechanisms of Gene Transfer in the Oceans that Involve Viruses
The common research theme in Dr. Paul's is the measurement of gene expression as a means to understanding microbially-mediated processes in the oceans. This is divided into specific areas of research that include lysogeny, microbial gene transfer by virus-like gene transfer agents (GTAs), phytoplankton carbon fixation, and development of sensors. Lysogeny is the process whereby a virus establishes a stable symbiosis in its host. His group is examining the genomes of temperate marine bacteriophages to understand the control of lysogeny in heterotrophic bacteria and picocyanobacteria in the marine environment. This group has also performed several high impact studies documenting the activity of microbial gene transfer by particulate GTAs in both cultures and natural marine microbial assemblages. His studies in carbon fixation have focused on the control of this process in oceanic river plumes. Such plumes have tremendous CO2 drawdown, yet also behave as areas of high levels of recycled production.
Dr. Paul's group is using their experience in measuring mRNA as a surrogate for microbial gene expression in the design of hand-held [and autonomous] sensors (in conjunction with the Center for Ocean Technology) for the detection of noxious microorganisms in coastal environments. This has led to the USF technology spinoff, PureMolecular LLC, a company that develops applications of gene detection by RNA amplification using point of care handheld sensors.