Dr Frances Hopkins, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
Dr Gill Malin, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Prof Penelope Lindeque, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Prof Peter Liss, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Marine plastic pollution can now be found throughout the world’s oceans, from the remote polar seas to the deepest depths, and there is great concern about the potential effects on the marine environment. The potential for microplastics, often derived from the breakdown of larger plastic pieces, to cause harm to marine organisms and influence broader-scale biogeochemical processes is not well established. This project will significantly increase our understanding of how microplastics affect not only the functioning of marine microbiota but also the production of climatically-active trace gases, which influence the formation of atmospheric particles and the atmosphere’s ability to self-cleanse.
Research Methodology and Training
In this novel, innovative and exciting project the student will examine the role of plastics on the production of trace gases by marine phytoplankton and bacteria. Gases, including dimethyl sulfide (DMS), halocarbons, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), will be considered, all of which play important roles in atmospheric chemistry and climate after their release from seawater and transformation in the atmosphere.
The research will primarily be laboratory-based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, providing access to brand new chemistry and ultraclean microplastic facilities, and focussing on single, model phytoplankton and bacteria species, to establish the role of plastics in the formation of trace gases. The successful candidate will learn how to culture and conduct experiments with microbes, assess phytoplankton physiology, and to sample and analyse trace gases using established analytical techniques. The student will also assess how biofilms influence trace gas production, using both laboratory cultures and by ‘seasoning’ plastics in the natural environment. PML’s state-of-the-art Single Cell Genomics facility will be used to screen for diagnostic markers for trace gas biosynthesis genes.
We seek an individual with qualifications in marine or environmental sciences, analytical chemistry or general chemistry. Applicants with a chemistry degree may be eligible for an additional 3-6 month stipend for advanced training in marine sciences. The ideal candidate will have an aptitude and enthusiasm for hands-on practical work, problem solving and a keen desire to work with analytical instrumentation.