The project analyzed samples collected by the global Tara Oceans expedition, documenting genomes that will help researchers identify protists throughout the ocean.
"So many ocean protists cannot be grown in the lab, so we must find ways to interrogate them in their environment," said Mike Sieracki, lead author of the study.
"Every drop of seawater contains microbial ecosystems we know very little about, and it is urgently important to understand this fundamental ecosystem of our ocean planet, Earth, and how it reacts to change."
Protists form some of the ocean's most complex relationships with other members of the microbial food web, including parasitism and approaches to eating that combine both photosynthesis and predation.
The research team analyzed protists from across the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea using single cell genomics, a suite of molecular techniques that reveals the genetic blueprints of individual cells.
He conducted this research while working as a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where he helped found the institute's Single Cell Genomics Center.