Is the ocean short of breath due to global warming?


Is the ocean short of breath due to global warming?


Project Description


Dr Giorgio Dall’Olmo (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)

Prof Carol Robinson (UEA Environmental Sciences)

Dr Luca Plimene (PML)

Dr Bastien Queste (UEA Environmental Sciences)

The problem

The ocean is running out of oxygen. This de-oxygenation is reducing the habitats available for fish and other marine organisms and can alter global biogeochemical cycles. Yet, our understanding of why oceanic oxygen is diminishing is severely limited: state-of-the-art Earth System Models can only account for about half of the observed oxygen decline, likely because we have a poor understanding of the processes responsible for ocean de-oxygenation (Oschlies et al., 2018).

Project aims

  1. To quantify how oxygen consumption by marine organisms changes as a function of temperature;
  2. To quantify how this temperature-dependence varies with geographic region and season.
  3. To develop model new parameterisations of the process.

Research methodology

You will be based at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory where you will determine oxygen consumption rates from Biogeochemical-Argo floats (video) deployed in the global ocean (Hennon et al., 2016) and analyse their variability with temperature, depth, season and geographic location (Brewer and Pelzer, 2017). Using the new knowledge gained from these data, you will also improve existing biogeochemical models of oxygen consumption in the ocean.


You will receive training in ocean biogeochemistry, data analysis and visualisation, scientific programming, laboratory determination of oxygen concentrations, ocean biogeochemical models, and oral and written presentation skills. You will contribute to the PICCOLO project and take part in an oceanographic expedition in Antarctica (Weddell Sea) on the newest NERC polar research vessel, the RSS Sir David Attenborough, during which you will determine ocean oxygen concentrations. You will collaborate with dynamic research teams at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of East Anglia. You will present your findings at international scientific conferences, in peer-reviewed scientific publications and in a PhD thesis.

Person specification

We seek an enthusiastic, proactive team player with strong scientific interests and self-motivation. You will have at least a 2.1 honours degree in physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, or a branch of environmental science.

The successful candidate will be registered for a PhD in the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences.


  • Oschlies, A.; Brandt, P.; Stramma, L. & Schmidtko, S. Drivers and mechanisms of ocean deoxygenation, Nature Geoscience, 2018, 11, 467-473. doi:10.1038/s41561-018-0152-2
  • Hennon, T. D., S. C. Riser, and S. Mecking (2016), Profiling float-based observations of net respiration beneath the mixed layer, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 30, 920–932. doi:10.1002/2016GB005380.
  • Brewer PG, Peltzer ET. (2017) Depth perception: the need to report ocean biogeochemical rates as functions of temperature, not depth, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 375: 20160319. doi:10.1098/rsta.2016.0319
  • Dall'Olmo, G.; Dingle, J.; Polimene, L.; Brewin, R. J. W. & Claustre, H. Substantial energy input to the mesopelagic ecosystem from the seasonal mixed-layer pump Nature Geoscience, 2016, 9, 820-823. doi:10.1038/ngeo2818
  • Serret,P., Robinson,C., Aranguren-Gassis,M., Garcia-Martin,E.E., Kitidis,V., Lozano,J., Stephens,J. 2015 Both respiration and photosynthesis determine the scaling of plankton metabolism in the oligotrophic ocean Nature Communications 6:6961 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7961

Further Information

Image credits: Christophe Penkerc’h

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