As part of its monthly lecture series, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum will present All The Life We Cannot See: Marine Microbes and the Health of Our Oceans, 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19.

UCSB Professor Alyson Santoro will discuss the general role of microbes in the ocean, which cycle nitrogen throughout the deep ocean, and the impact and important role the microbes have on the Earth’s climate.

Marine microbes are single-celled organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye. They are the most abundant living things in the ocean, where they keep the water and the entire planet habitable for animals — and people.

As recently as the 1950s, people believed the deep ocean was practically devoid of microbial life.

“People often have a negative association with bacteria in the ocean because they only hear about them when something bad happens, like when a beach closes,” Santoro said. “I hope to show people just a few of the many ways that we depend on these small creatures to keep the ocean safe for fish, whales, and us.”

In her lab at UCSB (Santoro Labs), she and her team research these microbes, and the challenges of trying to tame wild bacteria in order to study them in the laboratory.

Santoro will address the new technologies and autonomous sampling systems used to study the microbes and a new project in the lab using the power of marine microbes to design new plastics that can degrade in seawater.

“At the museum, we celebrate the Santa Barbara Channel and emphasize our rich connections to the sea,” said Greg Gorga, SBMM executive director. “I look forward to learning more about marine microbes and how we can all better support the health of our oceans.”

The series is free to attend for SBMM Navigators Circle members; $10 for all other members; and $20 for the general public. To learn more and to book tickets for Santoro’s talk, visit

The lecture series is sponsored by Marie L. Morrisroe.