People > Dr Karen Tait

Dr Karen Tait

Microbial Ecologist

Contact Details

+44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)


Dr Karen Tait is a Senior Scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Her research has focused on the involvement of bacterial quorum sensing (QS) signalling molecules in the development of marine communities. Bacteria use these QS signal molecules to regulate expression of many genes, including those involved in biofilm formation, motility, secondary metabolism and virulence. Within marine biofouling communities, Karen has demonstrated these consortia are hot-spots of both signal-producing and signal-degrading bacteria, and that key members of this community utilise QS to aid their attachment to surfaces. In addition, QS also influences the settlement of higher fouling organisms. Karen has demonstrated the problematic fouling alga, Ulva sp., and, more recently, the barnacle Balanus improvisus, tap in on this signalling system when locating surfaces for settlement.

Also of interest are signalling interactions amongst coral- and sponge-associated microbes, and the production of signal-mimic compounds by micro-algae.
More recently, Karen has expanded her interests of complex microbial communities to sediments. This work aims to determine the environmental drivers influencing microbial community structure and diversity in benthic habitats, particularly those microbes associated with nitrogen cycling, and the impact of environmental change on microbial community structure and function. Much of this work has involved studies of the impact of elevated CO2 and temperature on benthic microbes.


Mission Atlantic
Mission Atlantic

Contact: Dr Jorn Bruggeman

"Towards the sustainable development of the Atlantic Ocean: Mapping and assessing the present and future status of Atlantic marine ecosystems...

Atlantic Ecosystem Assessment, Forecasting and Sustainability (AtlantECO)

Contact: Dr Andy Rees

AtlantECO is working to understand the human impacts on the marine ecosystems and processes in the Atlantic. The main focus of the project is to...

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Other key projects

Biogeochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the benthic layer (SSB) NERC (2013 – 2017).

Using flow cytometry and genomics to characterise and optimise microalgal-bacterial consortia cultivated on Wastewater to produce biomass for Biofuel (W2B) BBSRC (2013 – 2016).

European Free-Ocean carbon dioxide enrichment experiments (eFOCE) BNP Paribas (2012 – 2015).

Impacts of ocean acidification on key benthic ecosystems, communities, habitats, species and life cycles (Benthic OA). NERC (2010-2014).

Quantifying and monitoring potential ecosystem impacts of geological carbon storage (QICS) NERC (2010 -2014).

Selected key publications

Blackford J, Stahl H, Bull JM, Bergès BJP, Cevatoglu M, Lichtschlag A, Connelly D, James RH, Kita J, Long D, Naylor M, Shitashima K, Smith D, Taylor P, Wright I, Akhurst M, Chen B, Gernon TM, Hauton C, Hayashi M, Kaieda H, Leighton TG, Sato T, Sayer MDJ, Suzumura M, Tait K, Vardy ME, White PR, Widdicombe S (2014). Detection and impacts of leakage from Carbon Capture and Storage. Nature Climate Change in press.

Ransome E, Rowley SJ, Thomas S, Tait K and Munn C. (2014) Disturbance to conserved bacterial communities in the cold water gorgonian coral Eunicella verrucosa. FEMS Microbiology Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1574-6941.12398

Gattuso J-P, Kirkwood W, Barry JP, Cox E, Gazeau F, Hansson L, Hendriks I, Kline DI, Mahacek P, Marker M, Martin S, McElhany P, Reeve J, Roberts D, Saderne V, Tait K, Widdicombe S, Brewer P (2014) Free Ocean CO2 enrichment (FOCE) systems: present status and future developments. Biogeosciences 11, 4057-4075.

Tait K, Kitidis V, Ward BB, Cummings DG, Jones MR, Somerfield PJ, Widdicombe S (2014) Spatio-temporal variability in ammonia oxidation and ammonia oxidising bacteria and archaea in coastal sediments of the Western English Channel. Marine Ecology Progress Series 10.3354/meps10933.

Tait K, Laverock B, Widdicombe S (2014) Response of an arctic sediment ammonia oxidising community to increased CO2. Estuaries and Coasts 37: 724-735.

Ransome E, Munn CB, Halliday N, Cámara M, Tait K (2014) Diverse profiles of N‐acyl‐homoserine lactone molecules found in cnidarians. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 87:315-329.

Laverock B, Tait K, Gilbert JA, Osborn AM & Widdicombe S (2014) Impacts of bioturbation on temporal variation in bacterial and archaeal nitrogen‐cycling gene abundance in coastal sediments. Environmental Microbiology Reports 6:113-121.

Twigg MS, Tait K, Williams P, Atkinson S, Miguel Cámara (2014) Interference with the germination and growth of Ulva zoospores by quorum sensing molecules produced by Ulva-associated epiphytic bacteria. Environmental Microbiology 16: 445-453.

Tait K, Laverock B, Shaw J, Somerfield PJ, Widdicombe S (2013) Minor impact of ocean acidification to the structure of an Arctic sediment microbial community. Environmental Microbiology Reports 5: 851-860.

K Tait, Havenhand H (2013) Investigating a possible role for the bacterial signal molecules N-acylhomoserine lactones in Balanus improvisus cyprid settlement. Molecular Ecology 22:2588-2602.

Laverock B, Kitidis V, Tait K, Osborn AM, Gilbert JA, Widdicombe S (2013) Bioturbation activity determines the response of coastal benthic nitrogen-cycling microorganisms to ocean acidification. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B. 368(1627): 20120441.

Russell BD, Connell SD, Findlay HS, Tait K, Widdicombe S, Mieszkowska N. (2013) Ocean acidification and rising temperatures may increase biofilm primary productivity but decrease grazer consumption. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B. 368: 368(1627): 20120438.

Allen MJ, Tait K, Muhling M, Weynberg K, Bradley C, Trivedi U, Gharbi K, Nissimov J, Mavromatis K, Jensen CN, Grogan G, Ali S (2012) Genome sequence of Stenotrophomonas maltophila PML168 which displays Baeyer-Villiger monooxygenase activity. Journal of Bacteriology 194: 4753-4754.

Tommonaro G, Abbamondi GR, Iodice C, Tait K, de Rosa S. (2012) Diketopiperazines Produced by the Halophilic Archaeon, Haloterrigena hispanica, Activate AHL Bioreporters. Microbial Ecology 63: 490-495.

Temperton B, Thomas K, Tait K, Parry H, Emery M, Allen M, Quinn J, MacGrath J, Gilbert J (2011) Permanent draft genome sequence of the Vibrio tubiashii strain NCIMB 1337. Stand Genomic Sci 29: 183-190.

Kitidis V, Laverock B, McNeil CL, Beesley A, Cummings D, Tait K, Osborn AM, Widdicombe S (2011). The impact of ocean acidification on sediment nitrification. Geophysical Research Letters. doi:10.1029/2011GL049095

Laverock B, Gilbert JA, Tait K, Osborn AM, Widdicombe S (2011) Bioturbation: impact on the marine nitrogen cycle. Biochemistry Society Transcations 29: 315-320.