Professor Carol Robinson, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Professor Tom Bell, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Dr Helen Powley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
The oceans release huge quantities of a gas called dimethylsulfide (DMS), which plays a key role in regulating Earth’s climate via the formation of atmospheric particles and clouds. DMS is produced when marine phytoplankton die and break apart, or by bacteria as they feed on the substances that phytoplankton excrete.
We know the products of DMS have an important influence on climate – their cooling effect is similar in size (but opposite in sign) to the global warming caused by human CO2 emissions. But gaps in our understanding remain, some of which relate to short term bloom events often associated with intense DMS production. Complex phytoplankton community dynamics are likely to be critical during such events, but models still do not include a suitable level of detail to capture this.
Assess how phytoplankton community composition drives short term fluctuations in DMS to better understand and improve global emission predictions.
You will measure seawater DMS, developing established methods (gas chromatography) to measure at higher frequency using mass spectrometry, and collect phytoplankton community data (samples for pigments, flow cytometry, microscopy), on a DMS-focused international North Atlantic aircraft and ship-based campaign.
You will use the Western Channel Observatory (WCO) to assess seasonal DMS dynamics, taking advantage of exciting autonomous technologies to increase sampling capability. Data will be integrated with detailed phytoplankton community data routinely collected at WCO, including novel methods such as automated, in situ plankton imaging/classification.
You will compare your data with output from the European Regional Seas Marine Ecosystem Model (with embedded DMS dynamics module) to assess the mechanistic understanding and predictive capability of the model.
You will gain sea-going field experience and be trained in a range of state-of-the-art instruments and novel techniques in ISO accredited labs. You will gain data analysis, coding and modelling skills (Python), and transferable career skills (writing/communication, good laboratory practice, quality assurance and safety procedures). You will be encouraged to participate in a summer school, and to attend relevant international workshops and meetings.
Suited for someone passionate about multidisciplinary environmental research and field work, with degree-level qualifications in Environmental, Chemical, Marine or Atmospheric Sciences.