Category Archives: Research

Phytoplankton - the foundation of the oceanic food chain. Image courtesy of the NOAA MESA Project.

Plankton can save the ocean. But who will save the plankton?

Read this post by Lauren Hinkel via Oceans@MIT

When it comes to climate change and the oceans, MIT Principal Research Scientist Stephanie Dutkiewicz weighs in on why it’s not just warming oceans we need to worry about. Plankton — that are crucial for carbon sequestration and oxygen production — have been discovered behaving strangely, but they may point the way to better geoengineering and understanding of trends in marine populations and ecology.

Dutkiewicz’s research examines how the physics and chemistry of the ocean determines phytoplankton biogeography, and how in turn those organisms affect their environment.

Read her comments in New Scientist.

 

By Richard A. Ingebrigtsen, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12614179

Keeping Things the Same

The elemental composition of organic matter is remarkably constant throughout the world’s oceans, but phytoplankton are known to take up nutrients and carbon in quite variable ratios depending on light and nutrient conditions.

In a paper published online in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles last month, Darwin Project researchers David Talmy (MIT), Christopher Hill (MIT), Anna Hickman (Univ. of Southampton, England), and Mick Follows (MIT), in a collaboration with Adam Martiny (Univ. of California, Irvine), report on their work  seeking to understand what ecosystem factors could cause the elemental composition of organic matter to remain stable and relatively constant (homeostatic), even when the phytoplankton can have quite variable composition. Continue reading

Dutkiewicz, S., J.J. Morris, M.J. Follows, J. Scott, O. Levitan, S.T. Dyhrman, and I. Berman-Frank, 2015, Impact of Ocean Acidification on the Structure of Future Phytoplankton CommunitiesNature Climate Change, doi: 10.1038/nclimate2722

 

Image credit: Christian Sardet, Tara Expeditions

Uncovering a Diverse Invisible Ocean World

Read this story at oceans.mit.edu

Tara Oceans, an international consortium of researchers that explored the world’s oceans in hopes of learning more about one of its smallest inhabitants, reported their initial findings this week in a special issue of Science. Plankton are vital to life on Earth—they absorb carbon dioxide, generate nearly half of the oxygen we breathe, break down waste, and are a cornerstone of the marine food chain. Now, new research indicates the diminutive creatures are not only more diverse than previously thought, but also profoundly affected by their environment. Continue reading