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Cefas Eutrophication Monitoring for Marine


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Cefas Eutrophication Monitoring for Marine

We collect samples of fish and water, track the movements of fish, visualise and assess the marine environment, and classify samples using molecular and microscopic techniques. To monitor water quality across all parts of the ocean, we use a range of platforms including the RV Cefas Endeavour, Smart Buoys and unmanned area vehicles and satellite imagery (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – A algal bloom seen from space across the North Sea.

Monitoring eutrophication in UK marine waters – changing the way we do business

For eutrophication, it is important to understand the long-term changes in our coastal and marine water quality, and if those changes are related to human activities. We work with the environment agencies to improve water quality and to make sure that we do not impact on our important coastal and marine ecosystems. Our work is driven by policies such as the UK Marine Strategy and the EU Marine Strategy Framework and OSPAR Comprehensive strategy. To enable the UK government to successfully implement these strategies and measure their progress Cefas has taken a leading role in developing methods and technologies to innovate and improve the efficiency of monitoring programmes, both in the UK and beyond.

One of our challenges has been to respond to shifts in our understanding of eutrophication, and how we can become more confident in our national assessments by better use of high frequency data, improved technology and working across the catchment to coast contiuum. For example, we are, under OSPAR, moving to a more harmonised approach in the development of common indicators, data and assessment areas for our reporting and to achieve greater spatial coverage of all our marine reporting regions. Higher data frequency over these reporting areas and through different time periods makes it easier to understand if changes are occurring and what we need to do to mitigate problems and to protect areas that have high ecological value.

We need to report our outcomes based on specific areas

The UK, alongside JMP Eunosat (a research program) and the OSPAR member states, have agreed to a new set of assessment areas, reflecting improvements in harmonisation, modelling, and expert agreements, as the reporting  framework for upcoming assessments. The new assessment areas represent updates in our knowledge around common traits and conditions within each reporting area (Figure 2).

Figure 2 - Assessment areas

The Cefas team and sampling water quality in our marine waters

To examine how the data Cefas collects can contribute to eutrophication assessments under these newly defined areas, we analysed the sampling undertaken November 2018 to November 2019 for frequency and spatial coverage during the different assessment periods. The Cefas team collected water quality data through SmartBuoys, Ferrybox and in-situ sampling (Figure 3).

Figures 3 – A set of Niskin bottles and the Cefas scientists ready for water quality sampling.

To read the full report, please click here.

For more information, see Cefas's webpages on Marine MonitoringObserving the UK Shelf Seas, and OSPAR's Eutrophication strategy.




 

Posted by on Thu, 26 Nov 2020



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The effects of wading birds on the erosion, properties and ecosystem services of estuarine intertidal muddy sediments


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Bird Wading

The effects of wading birds on the erosion, properties and ecosystem services of estuarine intertidal muddy sediments

My name is James, and I am studying part time for a PhD in the School of Environmental Sciences at the UEA. My research topic is “Biosedimentological Cascades: the effects of wading birds on the erosion, properties and ecosystem services of estuarine intertidal muddy sediments”. Wading birds are key to the functioning of estuaries, mediating processes that help deliver ecosystem services that humans rely on. I am investigating this by excluding wading birds from 2m x 2m sections of mudflat in the Colne estuary Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve in Essex, so I can compare areas of mudflats where birds feed with areas where they are prevented from feeding. This will enable me to quantify the contribution of wading birds to the delivery of services, by measuring key sediment properties such as erodibility and microalgal biofilm abundance, which underpin ecosystem service delivery (a biofilm is a layer of millions of microscopic organisms covering the surface of the sediment, acting a bit like skin).

I’ve tested two different methods of excluding wading birds from areas of a mudflat, adapted from previously used designs. The idea of species exclusion is not new in ecological studies, but testing the methods is vital to ensure that the exclosures can withstand the harsh and unpredictable conditions of the intertidal environment. Both exclosures withstood the elements for three months, which was a huge relief. One also successfully excluded all wading birds from areas of the mud which gives me hope that a larger scale deployment within a well-designed experiment will produce the data needed to test the effects waders have on their habitat.

I took some preliminary measurements during this testing, learning how to use the equipment whilst sinking knee deep in the mud! Insufficient measurements were taken to perform a detailed statistical analysis, but it appears that changes to the sediment properties occurred more quickly than I was expecting. Algal blooms appeared rapidly among exclusion plots, but by the time I had managed to organise sampling the site, an army of mudsnails had arrived in my study area and eaten much of the biofilm. Measurements taken later suggested that temporal differences between plots were great enough to mask any differences caused by bird presence/absence. These findings raise questions about the interaction of different species on mudflats, which I hope to shed more light on as my research progresses. I’ve not yet managed to find any other published research which has investigated the link between wading bird presence/predation to changes in sediment characteristics. I would be very interested to know whether anybody else has, do get in touch at my e-mail below if you know of any such research.

This work was undertaken at Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve in collaboration with Essex Wildlife Trust and with permission from Natural England. Many thanks to Louise Beary and Matt Cole at the reserve for their cooperation and advice.

James Booty, EnvEast PhD student J.Booty@uea.ac.uk

Project supervisors: Drs Trevor Tolhurst and Richard Davies (UEA), and Prof. Graham Underwood (University of Essex).

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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Development of a novel ageing method for European lobsters


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Development of a novel ageing method for European lobsters

Most fish and molluscs can be aged by counting growth rings laid down in hard calcified structures such as otoliths (ear bones of fish) or shells. In contrast, crustaceans cannot be aged accurately as they periodically lose and replace most of these hard, calcified structures when they moult. This presents a problem for ensuring the sustainable exploitation of crustacean fisheries, because without information on age structure, it is impossible to reliably-predict population growth and resilience to harvesting. Consequently, a reliable and accurate ageing method is urgently needed for crustacean fisheries management and would have considerable economic and conservation impacts. Recently, several studies in organisms as varied as humans and zebrafish have suggested that the accumulation of epigenetic marks (methylation of CpG sites) in DNA can be used as an accurate measure of chronological age.  In this project, we will test the utility of such epigenetic markers for determining chronological age in the European lobster.

The development of such a model will allow accurate ageing of lobster populations in the wild which will allow the age structure of the stock to be estimated and will therefore facilitate more sustainable stock management.  Moreover, a DNA based assay is non-invasive and does not require the sacrifice of any samples to conduct the test.

For more information about this work, please email Martin.Taylor@uea.ac.uk

Posted by Sam West on Wed, 25 Nov 2020



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Future proofing Dominican fisheries from hurricane impacts


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Fish catch from San Sauveur, including the invasive Lionfish in the middle (photo credit: J. Forster)

Future proofing Dominican fisheries from hurricane impacts

Increasing severity of tropical storms and hurricanes affecting Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) calls for improving understanding of the associated social and economic risks, and future resilience of the important small-scale fisheries sector. This GCRF-funded project focuses on the recovery of Dominica’s fishing communities and fisheries sector following Hurricane Maria in 2017. Dominica’s fisheries sector offers a unique opportunity for immediate to long-term recovery post-disaster, providing food and livelihood security options, yet to date little research has focused on how this sector could be more effectively supported, and better integrated with disaster risk management.

Fieldwork for the project was undertaken by Johanna Forster and Carole White (both from the School of International Development, UEA) during October 2019. Using a 3D wellbeing approach to frame and explore recovery of a fisheries-dependent community affected by Hurricane Maria, this project assessed community perceptions of the social (subjective and relational), as well as material resources that enable or constrain different responses following a natural disaster. Semi-structured interviews with key informants encompassing resource users (e.g. fishers, vendors), local (e.g. fisheries cooperative, village council), and National governance (e.g. Fisheries Department, Department of Local Government) representatives identified a range of important insights into small-scale fisheries recovery, and future resilience.

Key trends emerging from this study include issues of food security (fish as a reliable source of nutrition immediately following a natural disaster, and particularly important due to the decline of agriculture due to loss of land and crops); gender (women’s role not as clearly defined as men, yet established and important, albeit not acknowledged in National statistics); community dependency (wide range of dependents at community level, often not formally acknowledged); and the importance of good relationships, respect and community spirit to support the community and fisheries sector to ‘build back better’. This work provides the first attempt to apply a holistic wellbeing approach for Dominican fisheries, to explore and incorporate the subjective and relational aspects of recovery; to provide distinctive and important insights for policy processes that are intended to reconcile natural resources and disaster risk management in fishing communities. While analysis is still ongoing, the work has already fed into work being undertaken by the Climate Resilience Execution Agency for Dominica – the statutory government agency in Dominica leading the mission to rebuild the island as the first climate resilient nation.

For more information about this work, please email j.forster@uea.ac.uk

Posted by Sam West on Wed, 25 Nov 2020



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Marine Conservation: Sink or Swim?


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Marine Conservation: sink or swim; Unlocking the creativity of business

Marine Conservation: Sink or Swim?

How to actually protect marine protected areas (MPAs) was the subject of the conference organised by the North Sea marine Cluster on 21st April.  The conference was held in the splendid setting of the Grade 1 listed Assembly House in Norwich.  It was attended by leading business leaders, policy makers, conservationists and academic researchers – all with an interest in the marine economy and in marine conservation.

 

The Government has undertaken to put in place a “Blue Belt” around the UK and around the UK’s Oversea’s territories. Useful progress has been achieved in designating sites in UK waters with some 500 MPAs designated and more to come. However, designation is only the first step. Such a large expansion represents a major management task at a time when public sector resources are highly stretched and budgets have been severely cut.

 

A study report by Rodney Anderson and Liam McAleese, prepared on behalf of the Cluster and sponsored by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, concluded that the current arrangements would in all likelihood not do the job. A different approach was required.  The report called for fresh thinking, suggested that different delivery models should be employed and that the Government should tap into the expertise and ingenuity of the private sector.  A key point was that all of this could be achieved within existing resources. It was a matter of using what is available but in a different way.

 

The report formed the basis of the conference, which offered delegates the opportunity to share ideas and to discuss practicable and affordable measures to protect MPAs.  There were presentations from a wide range of interests across all sectors. These included:

 

Rodney Anderson, who pointed out that there was compelling evidence that large institutions do not to learn from past mistakes; much better to borrow good ideas from others and to use the experience already available even if this meant looking beyond the usual actors.

Dr Gemma Harper, from Defra, outlined the Government’s commitment to a modern, integrated, local and local approach with the promise of a new marine pathfinder initiative.

Dr Peter Jones, of University College London, explained the importance of getting the basics right when putting in place MPA governance, whilst recognising complexity and diversity to ensure resilience. He has recently published his findings which draw on case studies across the world.

Dr Piers Fleming, of the University of East Anglia, explored the scope for applying behavioural science and understanding how people make and respond to decisions. The report had concluded that that was an area that seemed to hold considerable promise in terms of MPA management.

Salli Felton, Chief Executive of theTravel Foundation, discussed as a case study the work of the Travel Foundation in in Cape Verde. There were some useful lessons to be drawn that could be applied to stakeholder engagement on MPA management in the UK.

Rachel Robertson, a Senior Environmental Scientist in the Gardline Group, provided an overview that linked the policy objectives, the management needs and the new technologies available to support MPA management. There are exciting developments across a number of technology fields which could help managers deploy their resources more cost-effectively.

Nigel Birdsall of Blue Bear Systems developed the theme and illustrated the capabilities of autonomous unmanned systems.

Dr Clare Postlethwaite, the Co-ordinator of the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN), explained the steps being taking to facilitate and foster data sharing. Accessing and managing data is central to MPA management.

Robin Mortimer, Chief Executive of the Port of London Authority (PLA), offered a customer’s perspective and showed how regulatory requirements and customer needs could be satisfactorily reconciled.
 

The main conference was followed by a dinner which gave those attending a further opportunity to exchange ideas and to hear about the experiences of others.

 

It was evident that people found the conference stimulating and an excellent means of making links and contacts that ordinarily might not have been possible. The focus on the practicalities of MPA management was welcomed.  It was recognised that good management was in everyone’s interest.

 

Already, there have been a number of useful actions flowing from the event.  For example, discussions have been held to follow up ideas for school students ‘adopting’ MPAs and becoming directly involved in the underpinning science and research.  Potential business links have been made, and other discussions held to explore how the management principles could be applied as the UK develops it marine policies in preparation for exit from the EU.

 

The report can be found here: http://nsmc.eu.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/NSMC_OneVoiceReport_Online-V2.pdf

Post written by Rodney Anderson, Chair of the Board of the North Sea Marine Cluster (http://nsmc.eu.com/)

Posted by Rodney Anderson on Fri, 27 Oct 2017



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The E3i Club


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The E3i Club

The E3i Club

As mentioned previously, during the first year of the EnvEast DTP, the E3i club was formed. The E3i club is a student lead body, looking to combine innovation with modern day scientific industry on a number of different fronts. Headed up by Natasha Senior, The E3i Club is constantly on the lookout for new members. Committee meetings occur roughly every month, with a healthy amount of notice to ensure that all can attend. Recent topics of discussion have included organising excursions to Plymouth, for cross DTP training partnerships to grow, as well as organisation of fresh initiatives for the now current academic year.

E3i, or to give it’s full title, EnvEast Enterprise and Innovation, have introduced new initiatives with the fresh academic year. These initiatives are available not just to E3i Club members, but the wider PGR, Early Career Researchers and other attendees of the university.

Apps

Perhaps E3i’s greatest achievement to date has been the organisation of a seminar series, due to take place in late 2015. This seminar series, is based around one of the fastest growing industries in modern business, and an industry that holds massive potential for scientific research. The industry I’m talking about, is of course Apps. To put this industry growth into perspective, in 2008, Apple launched the first version of it’s App Store alongside it’s – at the time – latest edition of the iPhone. Since then, Apps have somewhat taken over the world, with the App Store boasting over one and a half million apps, with over a billion downloads and hundreds of millions of dollars paid to out to the developers.

E3i -more specifically Creative Director Philip Lamb – have recognised the potential for science within the App industry, and have decided to do something about it. The first of these ‘somethings’ is the organistion of the aforementioned semiar series. This series will bring to UEA researchers who have successfully implement apps into their science, to talk about how they did it, how it works and why it’s important for science to keep up with the digital times.

The first of these speakers is Dr. Tom August, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, giving a talk entitled ‘Hacking For Nature – Technologies for Grassroots Conservation’. Tom describes himself as a Computational Ecologist, and has worked extensively with statistical experts to develop methods for analysing species occurrence data and to make these methods available to other academics and practioners. Tom’s talk is due to take place at UEA, at 4PM on 11th November 2015.

The second confirmed talk comes from Dr. Paul Jepson from the University of Oxford, and is titled ‘Nature Apps – Waiting for the Revolution’. Paul is the course director of Oxford’s MSc in Biodiversity, Conversation and Management, and is one of the first researchers to actively intergrate the opportunities offered by new technologies and media into both his teaching and research. Paul’s talk is due to take place at UEA, at 4PM on 25th November 2015.

In addition to the seminar series – who’s third and final speaker is yet to be confirmed – the E3i club have also put plans in motion to offer an app development course. This is likely to be an online based course, starting in 2016, with further details to be released closer to the time. It’s is aimed to be accessible to all, by using simple software to develop the apps, therefore no coding experience is necessary.

The E3i Grant Scheme

Introducing people to the world of apps and app development in science was not enough for the E3i club. Always striving to do more, E3i are pleased to annouce that 2015-16 will be the first academic year offering the E3i Innovation Grant. This grant is availble to early career NERC-facing researchers, and offers awards of up to £500 to fund specific activites to develop either their professional skills or those of others, widen the impact of their research and/or build partnerships between researchers and the non-academic community. The one caveat is that this activities must also demonstrate a benefit for PhD students with the EnvEast DTP.

Up to £1000 across the projects will be awarded through a competitive process that closes on the 8th of January 2016. 

The application window opens on the 26th October 2015. To apply, simply submit a written proposal by midnight of January 8th, of no more than 1000 words to env.east@uea.ac.uk, with the subject line ‘E3i Innovation Grant’. The proposal should clearly cover a description of the activity/project, the amount requested and a breakdown of how this will be used, identification of how the eligibility criteria and scope is met and a timeline of when you expect of incur and claim expenses.

A Little Extra For Students

The E3i club look to include as many people as possible in their work. However, as it is a student led body, it’s fair to say that they really go the extra mile for PGR students. For all EnvEast PGRs, the E3i Club offer free business cards for distribution at conferences to improve networking. In addition to this, a GoPro is also available for hire to take on field work, which has already been implemented successfully on multiple occasions.

The best way to both summaries and describe the E3i Club, if you are still unconvinced or undecided, is through the words of current committee member Beth Williams:

‘E3i is an opportunity for PhD students to look outside of their own research, forming the partnerships and networks needed to create impact, develop CV-building skills, and receive training bot usually offered in their courses. We want to be a voice for enterprising students, toa id them in the development of innovative ideas for academia and the wider community’

A worthy cause, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Posted by Seth Thomas on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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Diving into oceanography: a world beneath the waves


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Moofushi Kandu FIsh

Diving into oceanography: a world beneath the waves

Over the weekend of 5-6 March 2016, a keen group of divers and marine enthusiasts from around the UK (including as far away as Plymouth!) converged on Norwich for the second ‘Introduction to Oceanography for Divers Course’ at the University of East Anglia. After the success of the inaugural course in 2015, there was a lot to live up to, and thanks to Carol’s flawless organisation and expert contributions from UEA, Cefas, BAS and SAHFOS, this year didn’t disappoint!

After a timely arrival by all (apparently divers are notoriously good timekeepers – missing a tide means missing a dive!) the morning got off to a historical start with a jaunt through the development of oceanography. Carol took us all the way back to the 4th century BC when Aristotle, the ‘father of oceanography’ made the first known observations of marine life, and we were brought up to date with Rob teaching us how innovations in the most modern marine technology, such as gliders, are used to gather physical oceanography data that may otherwise be difficult (or impossible) to obtain. Continuing in the scientific vein, other lectures introduced students to the importance of the oceans and its biology in regulating climate, the complex chemistry going on beneath the waves, and the delicate interplay between a changing ocean and the diverse ecosystems that live within.

Students weren’t confined to the classroom all weekend, however, and, over the two days, eight laboratory demonstrations allowed participants to get their hands dirty and put theory into practice. Dave Pearce illustrated how Cefas uses a network of buoys to collect tidal data used in forecasting, whilst Dave Sivyer demonstrated the collection of chemical oceanography data using CTDs, to help monitor the health of the UK’s seas. Other practicals involved seeing how Rob controls gliders, often as far away as the Southern Ocean, from the comfort of his office; Ollie used colourful chemistry, a tank and a miniature polar bear to demonstrate ocean circulation and acidification; and Cansu, Clare, Katrin and Cecilia untangled the trophic web, taking students from bacteria, to phytoplankton, all the way up to Antarctic krill. Julian completed the picture, with a hands-on demo of the types of tagging equipment Cefas uses to monitor fish to consistently improve our understanding of their ecology and how to manage fish resources for the future.

Of particular interest to the group were lectures on scientific diving (including in the world’s coldest, most inhospitable waters around Antarctica!); waves, tides and currents; and the range of ‘citizen science’ that individuals, amateurs and enthusiasts can get involved in, with little (or sometimes even no) training. See, for example, Kieron Hyder’s ‘Dive into Science’ programme. Simon Jennings’ reflections on human impact, policies and motivations for conservation gave us all pause for thought, prompting us to consider the many and varied ways we interact with the seas. We were also truly globally interconnected this year, with Simon Morley from BAS videoing in before flying home from his season at the Antarctic base of Rothera, hosting a dynamic lecture and Q&A session on polar biology and oceanography.

As the weekend drew to a close, it became clear that not only had the students come away with new knowledge, motivations, and enthusiasm for the oceans, so had the lecturers! Bonds had been formed and new friends made, and already there is talk of organising next year’s course! Thank you to everyone that helped organise and run the course, but most importantly, thanks to the students, whose enthusiasm and insightful questions made teaching it so fun and inspiring.

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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Synthesis report on ocean acidification in UK waters


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Ocean Acidification

Synthesis report on ocean acidification in UK waters

Carbon dioxide and ocean acidification observations in UK waters

Ocean acidification is the large-scale, long-term fall in pH (increase in hydrogen ion concentration) occurring as an inevitable consequence of increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This report brings together relevant data on CO2 and ocean acidification measurements for UK waters, from UKOA, PLACID and other sources (SOCAT, GLODAP, ICES, SSB, and more). It updates Charting Progress 2 (Defra, 2010), based on Hydes et al. (2011), by focussing on measurements made between 2010 and 2015. The current synthesis was initiated in response to policy requirements identified in early 2015 by the Ocean Processes Evidence Group (OPEG), part of the Defra-led UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS). Updated information on variability and trends in marine CO2 and ocean acidification was considered necessary for several upcoming reviews and updates on the status of UK seas. These include the Initial Assessment of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in 2016/2017; UK inputs to future OSPAR (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) Quality Status Reports for the North Atlantic; and other national reviews of marine climate change; e.g. planned reports of the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) and the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA).

M-KEN were delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the report.  Read the full report here

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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CAPRICORN: Constraining Arctic PRimary production: Impacts and Contributions of ORganic matter and inorganic Nutrients


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Arctic Interaction stakeholders

CAPRICORN: Constraining Arctic PRimary production: Impacts and Contributions of ORganic matter and inorganic Nutrients


MKEN Arctic Logo

A group of 20+ UK marine scientists from the Universities of East Anglia, Southampton, Exeter and Northumbria, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the National Oceanography Centre are currently preparing a proposal to the NERC Changing Arctic Ocean programme to undertake a combined observational, experimental and numerical simulation study of the cycling of organic and inorganic nutrients in the Arctic Ocean in order to improve predictions of how the Arctic marine ecosystem may function under future 
scenarios of increased river runoff and melting sea-ice.

 

We would welcome interaction with regional stakeholders with an interest in Arctic marine ecosystem functioning.

 

The ocean plays a central role in the storage and cycling of carbon, through the uptake of CO2 by phytoplankton during photosynthesis, and the subsequent ‘packaging’ of particulate carbon in the form of dead phytoplankton cells and the faecal pellets of zooplankton which slowly sink. In addition, the activity of phytoplankton, bacteria, viruses and zooplankton produces a rich soup of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) compounds in the surrounding seawater, most of which can be rapidly respired to CO2 by bacteria, but a significant proportion of which cannot. Sunlight can also alter the chemical composition of the DOC, changing its availability to bacteria. Production of this ‘recalcitrant’ DOC, which cannot be rapidly used by bacteria to grow, means that it can be stored together with the sinking particulate carbon in the deep ocean for thousands of years. If the ocean did not play this vital storage role, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would be almost double what it currently is, with hazardous consequences for global temperatures. The environmental factors which influence how much carbon is stored in the ocean are those which influence the type of plankton community which occurs in a particular place. These include temperature and sunlight, together with the quantity and quality of dissolved organic material (DOM) and inorganic nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate which can be supplied to surface waters from rivers or mixing with deep waters. These environmental factors are exactly those which are changing at an unprecedented rate in the Arctic Ocean. Increasing temperatures are causing increased melting of sea- and land based ice producing increased freshwater input to the ocean. Reduced sea-ice increases the amount of sunlight experienced by the phytoplankton and the potential for mixing of subsurface waters into the surface.

The aim of this proposal is therefore to investigate how current and predicted changes in DOM and inorganic nutrient supply, through river run-off, sea-ice melt and hence changing water column mixing, will alter the composition of the plankton foodweb and thus the cycling of nutrients and storage of carbon within the Arctic Ocean.

 

If you are interested in working with us or if you would like to find out more then please contact us.

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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UEA Research: Coastal management in Norfolk and Suffolk and the changing climate


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Norfolk/Suffolk Coastline

UEA Research: Coastal management in Norfolk and Suffolk and the changing climate

How will East Anglia’s coastline adapt in the future? I have heard this same question from many different people – coastal managers, residents and business owners.

The East Anglian coast faces overlapping, complex pressures. Rapid coastal erosion, future storm surges, and socio-economic insecurities will all influence the look of our coastline – the results of which can be observed year by year. Coastal authorities face limited resources and many competing demands, so how should they proceed?

Managing the coast

My research examines current initiatives along our coastline that consider coastal adaptation, which I see as a conscious change to coastal management practices, processes and structures to better cope with climate change and its long-term impacts.

Future impacts of climate change on our coast are difficult to fathom. Modelled projections inherently rely on vast amounts of information on the current geomorphology of our coastline and future variations in ocean dynamics, weather and climate. Combined with the inevitable socio-economic changes to our coastal communities and uncertainties linked to long-term government funding, many decisions to adapt are highly uncertain. In fact, many coastal authorities choose to ‘wait and see’, as a concerted approach to adapt to future coastal changes.

While adaptation in the UK is a national issue, it often takes place at the local level. Local government authorities play a central role in facilitating coastal adaptation although industry, NGOs and local residents are becoming more involved in planning, financing, and implementing adaptation.

How you can get involved?

I have been speaking with coastal managers, local councillors and local businesses in order to better understand today’s planning decisions in the context of long-term adaptation strategies. I am particularly interested in new collaborations between sectors that aim to improve long-term decision-making to adapt to our changing coastline.

I have already gained fascinating insights into coastal management in Norfolk and Suffolk and I would like to speak to an even wider range of people from local government, non-governmental organisations and businesses.

This research is vital to record and study how we are currently adapting along the East Anglian coast, current barriers to adapting and exciting new avenues.

If you would like to participate in a short online questionnaire regarding the project or hear more about this research, please get in touch: c.donaldson@uea.ac.uk

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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Introduction to Oceanography Course


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Oceanography Course at UEA

Introduction to Oceanography Course

5 & 6 March 2016

Have you ever wondered what causes plankton blooms so large they can be seen from space, how marine life copes with the turbulent, low visibility underwater world we dive in, or how ocean currents are monitored with underwater gliders?

If so, come along to a 2 day interactive oceanography course at the University of East Anglia, Norwich on 5‐6 March 2016.

Created by divers who are also professional oceanographers,
the course is open to anyone with an interest in the marine environment.

Registration fee £100

BSAC members receive BSAC endorsement card

Register before 1 February 2016 with:
Dr. Carol Robinson BSAC NI 169
carol.robinson@uea.ac.uk

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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Recommendations for the management of MPAs


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Recommendations for the management of MPAs

NORTH SEA MARINE CLUSTER TO HOST CONFERENCE TO UNVEIL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS

Defra have recently announced an extension to the UK Blue Belt with the designation of 23 new Marine Conservation Zones.  However, designation is just the first step.  This conference will unveil a new collaborative approach to managing Marine Protected Areas.   It aims to launch a long-term sustainable management plan that represents a cost-effective and realistic way forward.

The conference will be based on our recently published study ‘One Voice for Marine Conservation’ , sponsored by the North Sea Marine Cluster and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.  It demonstrates there is an as yet untapped opportunity to use the creativity and ingenuity of the private sector in the long-term management of MPAs.

The conference is expected to attract key players with a vested interest in the marine economy. These will include business leaders, senior politicians and policy-makers, alongside world class marine scientists. The event, which will hear from a number of distinguished speakers, is to be held at the Assembly House in Norwich on 21st April 2016. The main conference will be followed by a separately ticketed evening reception.

Rodney Anderson, Chair of the Board of the North Sea Marine Cluster says “The Government has promised a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protected sites around the UK and the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories. However designation is just the first step. We need a long-term sustainable management plan in place and this event aims to be the launchpad for this.”

Gregory Darling, Chairman Gardline Group and Managing Director AST Ltd says “The health of the marine environment is critical to our economy, with direct marine related activities contributing £46bn and supporting over 890,000 jobs. This event will promote and facilitate the cross-sectoral cooperation that will be necessary to effectively manage marine protected areas.”

Professor Peter Liss CBE FRS, University of East Anglia says “UK seas are home to over 8000 species, many vital unique habitats and provide a range of ecosystem services. With an increasing global emphasis on valuing natural capital the UK has a real opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to sustainable management of the seas. This event will acknowledge the barriers, offer solutions and provide a cost-effective and realistic way forward.”

Tickets for the event, including information on confirmed speakers to date, are on sale now here. Sponsorship packages are available and details are available here. Earlybird tickets are on sale until 29th February- numbers are limited so book early to avoid disappointment.  Delegates will be invited to apply for a short speaking slot at the conference.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/marine-conservation-sink-or-swim-unlocking-the-creativity-of-business-tickets-19440710689

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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Project proposed to understand the respiration of bacteria in the ocean


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AMT Incubation

Project proposed to understand the respiration of bacteria in the ocean

Dr Carol Robinson and Dr Elena Garcia Martin at the University of East Anglia are developing a NERC grant proposal to investigate bacterial respiration (CO2 production) rates in marine environments using a variety of methods. They are interested to hear from anyone who might be interested in this work, in particular non-academic end users who might benefit and who could contribute to the development of the project to ensure its broadest impact and usefulness. For more information please contact mken@uea.ac.uk

In most of the world’s oceans, the concentrations of inorganic nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate and organic matter such as carbohydrates and amino acids are very low. These regions can therefore support only very low levels of biological activity, and small sized cells such as bacteria with low energy requirements tend to predominate. Larger organisms such as phytoplankton (which are able to photosynthesise) and zooplankton (the food of small fish) need abundant nutrients, and so occur in only reduced numbers in these waters.

Bacteria respire in a similar way to humans, consuming oxygen and producing carbon dioxide. The bacterial production of CO2 in these regions is a relevant contribution to the global carbon cycle and their activity influences the capacity of the ocean to mediate climate. The proportion of CO2 produced by bacteria in relation to the proportion produced by phytoplankton and zooplankton appears to vary between 20 and 80%. However, these data were derived from a method which relies on separating the bacteria from the rest of the plankton community before measuring their respiration, which is prone to error. Recent data, derived from a new enzymatic method based on the respiratory reduction of a tetrazolium salt, which does not require pre-separation of the bacterial community, suggest that bacteria and cyanobacteria (cells sized between 0.2 and 0.8 micrometers) produce only 40% of the CO2 produced by the microbial plankton. This is surprising since bacteria and cyanobacteria make up the majority of cells in these regions. In addition, this proportion did not vary between low productivity open ocean regions and high productivity coastal regions which are dominated by larger phytoplankton and zooplankton. This raises a number of questions – which organisms are responsible for the 60% of the respiration not accounted for by bacteria and why does the bacterial fraction not vary between high and low productivity regions.

In order to address these questions, a group of chemists, molecular biologists and ecologists from the University of East Anglia are proposing to work with a team of international enzyme kineticists and microscopists to determine the proportion of CO2 produced by bacteria in a range of ecosystems in the Atlantic Ocean. The study will also include culture work to assess the uptake and reduction of the tetrazolium salt by a representative range of plankton cells, including bacteria, cyanobacteria, phytoplankton and microzooplankton. We are interested in hearing from anyone whose work might benefit from this multidisciplinary project.

Posted by Martin Johnson on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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ASIBIA: Polar Bear Free Sea-Ice Research


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ASIBIA: Polar Bear Free Sea-Ice Research

ASIBIA: Polar Bear Free Sea-Ice Research

The University of East Anglia is currently building a brand new facility to grow sea-ice under realistic Arctic or Antarctic conditions. The role of sea-ice in the Earth’s climate is important for many reasons, including acting as an insulating layer for the oceans, reflecting sunlight back into space and providing a valuable habitat to species such as microscopic algae to polar bears.

However, conducting experiments on sea-ice is difficult (sampling sea-ice nearly always involves removing the sea-ice and storing for analysis back in a lab), relatively dangerous – reference those polars bears mentioned earlier – and usually very expensive. The running costs for an icebreaking ship, such as the Norwegian’s Polarstern Vessel l is around £50,000 per day. The idea of creating a miniature version of the Arctic in the laboratory not only reduces the day to day costs of sea-ice research but also entirely removes the dangers posed by polar bears!

The Science Background

The UEA sea-ice chamber (or to give its full name: The ASIBIA, Arctic Sea Ice, snow, Biogeochemistry and Impacts on the Atmosphere Chamber 1) aims to be a little different from previously constructed sea-ice chambers by creating an enclosed ocean-sea-ice-atmosphere system which can be temperature controlled and each of the ocean, sea-ice and atmosphere continuously monitored and sampled from. Some systems which require the large scale of the Arctic, such as how sea-ice breaks up and how large mammals interact with their environment cannot be replicated in a lab – but some; such as how sea-ice forms under different turbulence conditions, how gases are transferred from the ocean through sea-ice to the atmosphere or how microbiology responds to changing sea-ice conditions are ideally suited to experiments where all the environmental conditions can be controlled.

One of the major scientific problems of working in the Arctic on sea-ice is the uncertainty of the conditions and trying to understand which variables are the important factors. In a laboratory set up, factors such as wind speed and temperature can be controlled.

So what will the facility be able to do?

Well when complete… it’ll look something similar to the sketch below. The ocean will be heated and insulated to recreate the ocean heat flux, and to prevent cooling from any direction but at the top of the ocean. The air above the ocean is cooled in the same way an air-conditioning system works and can be as low at -55°C.

sea-ice schematic embedded 

The atmosphere is made from a Teflon film which is unreactive so that any chemistry we want to observe isn’t affected by the materials used. Another advantage to using this type of Teflon is that it is nearly completely transparent to Ultra-violet light and visible light, so the lighting can easily illuminate the sea-ice and ocean. The lighting rack above the chamber will consist of a combination of solar replication LED bulbs and ultraviolet bulbs (the ultra-violets are normally used in tanning salons and skin therapy treatments) so that the effects of UV photochemistry can be observed and light required for biological experiments can be tuned.

There will be a range of sensors in the chamber measuring ocean temperatures and salinity; ice measurements sensors for light transmission, salinity, temperature and pressure and atmospheric measurements of temperature, light, humidity and wind speed. There are also small pipes which can be used to sample gas concentrations in the atmosphere. We have also got underwater video to allow us to see how the ice forms (such as in this test experiments below):

 

 

What have we achieved so far?

The environmental room in which the sea-ice facility is housed is built and fully tested, the tank for the ocean and sea-ice is built and some of the ocean and sea-ice instruments have been tested in an initial proof of concept experiment.

Sea-ice embedded

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Part of the Sensor Array Present in the Sea-Ice Chamber

So far so good, but what’s the plan going forward?

The next stage is to make sure the whole system works with an atmosphere and appropriate lighting, and then we can start to run a whole suite of experiments looking at a wide range of scientific questions.

We have a lot of people in the school of environmental sciences who would like to use it for a variety of experiments including air-sea-ice gas exchange, algal growth under sea-ice and the effect of photochemistry in sea-ice on the atmosphere. There’s lots more interest from scientists outside the UEA with diverging interests such as snow on sea-ice, the effect of oil slicks under sea-ice and how melt ponds form at the base of sea-ice, to include just a few. Many of these are almost impossible to gain access to in the field without great time and cost due to the requirements to sample below the ice or be waiting for perfect sampling conditions. We’re hoping that the facility here will be well used by the community and become a useful tool for sea-ice research in the years to come.

1  ASIBIA  was the brainchild of the late Prof Roland von Glasow, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The European Research Council have funded the project.

Posted by Seth Thomas on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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Gill Malin is President of the British Phycological Society


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Gill Malin, President of the Council of the British Phycological Society (BPS).

Gill Malin is President of the British Phycological Society

Gill Malin, M-KEN Director of Marine Biology, has recently been appointed President of the Council of the British Phycological Society (BPS).

BPS was established in 1952 as a charity devoted to all aspects of the study of algae. It was one of the first phycological societies to be set up worldwide and, despite its name, it has an international membership. It is the largest in the Federation of European Phycological Societies and a member society of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEPS) and the Royal Society of Biology.

BPS has annual membership rates as low as £10 and a corporate membership rate of £100 – please do join if you already use algae for your work! The society has an annual meeting, publishes the European Journal of Phycology and members can apply to various funding schemes as well as those of FEPS.

Gill did her PhD on an unusual nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium at the University of Liverpool and then won a 2-year NERC Fellowship to work on cyanobacterial chemotaxis at the University of Bristol. Her first job at UEA was an 8-month contract between leaving Bristol and a postdoc at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA, but she returned to UEA and after a series of postdocs, was awarded two 5-year term NERC Advanced Fellowships in succession that led to her current position as a reader in Biological Oceanography and ELSA theme leader for Elemental Cycles

The algae, an amazingly diverse group that includes microalgae and seaweeds, have remained a focus throughout Gill’s career. She is interested in how the growth and physiology of phytoplankton populations are influenced by the environment and how they, in turn, affect the environment e.g. through the production of dimethyl sulphide, halogenated trace gases and hydrocarbons such as ethene and isoprene.

Through these interests Gill’s research has also reached into other related topics such as air-sea gas exchange, global biogeochemical cycles, phytoplankton growth rates, the size spectrum of phytoplankton populations, grazing, viral lysis and natural cell death processes and marine dissolved organic matter. Gill also applies her expertise to ‘algal exploitation’: the sustainable production of algal biomass for commercial purposes.

This research area has gained attention largely due to the potential algae offer for the production of biofuels, but algae can also be used for food, food additives and supplements, salt replacement, waste water treatment, pigments, a source of silica, feedstocks for chemical and pharmaceutical industries and even bio-batteries, paper, textiles and furniture manufacture. With this in mind Gill is working on a Newton project that is looking at the potential for offshore seaweed farming in the UK and Malaysia. If you need advice on microalgae or seaweeds, or want to harness the potential of algae for your organisation or business please do get in touch

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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2015 MCCIP Report Card Launched


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MCCIP Logo

2015 MCCIP Report Card Launched

Climate change will affect how we protect the marine environment

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) recently launched its latest report card at the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) annual science conference in Glasgow.

It focuses on how climate change could affect the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation – and in particular legislation used to establish marine protected areas.

 

Key findings in the 2015 MCCIP Report Card include:

Climate change is rarely explicitly considered in marine biodiversity legislation, but mechanisms generally exist that could enable climate change issues to be addressed.
The potential impacts of climate change on marine protected areas include species being gained to or lost from sites and, in certain cases, the entire network.

Flexibility is required in responding to climate change impacts on marine protected areas so options such as designating new sites, abandoning old sites and revising management measures may all need to be considered.
With over 1,250 designated features (species and habitats) in the UK marine protected area network, identifying where and how these habitats and species are likely to be affected by climate change will be a critical step in managing marine protected areas.

At the current stage of development for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, further practical consideration of how climate change could affect targets for the achievement of Good Environmental Status is required.
 

Chair of the MCCIP Report Card Working Group, Dr Matthew Frost, said: “This first major review of the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation in the UK in the light of climate change was a significant undertaking for MCCIP but one that we think is particularly timely. Our report shows that despite some potential challenges for implementation and a need for some further detailed analyses, much of the legislation does contain mechanisms that allow changes occurring as a result of climate drivers to be taken into account. We hope this work will be useful to all those with responsibility for implementing or developing legislation.”

 

UK Minister for the Marine Environment, George Eustice, said: “We are committed to improving our natural environment and delivering on our manifesto commitment to create and conserve the UK’s Blue Belt. The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership’s (MCCIP) valuable work is helping us to understand the potential impacts of climate change on our waters and the implications for marine life and habitats. Monitoring and gathering evidence is crucial to help us address climate change issues.”

 

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead, said: “I welcome today’s report from the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) – who are playing a vital role in helping us understand the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity. The findings will be useful as we seek to manage marine protected areas in the face of a marine climate that is slowly changing. The Scottish Government is already taking action on legislating for the impact of climate change to our marine environment through the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and our recently adopted National Marine Plan. The report shows the value of working together to protect the marine environment and provide significant and robust scientific data which will help inform future policies to protect our marine environment.”

 

To access the online version of the MCCIP Special Topic Report Card 2015 please visit click on this link: www.mccip.org.uk/mbl

Posted by Lisa Johnson on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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EnvEast PhD Opportunities 2016


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EnvEast PhD Opportunities

EnvEast PhD Opportunities 2016

December 7 2015, 13:00-14:00: Open Forum for EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership PhD Opportunities 2016

Location: University of East Anglia, Thomas Paine Study Centre, Room 2.01.

Applications are now open for the third wave of PhD studentships under the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) umbrella. The application deadline is 6 January 2016 for entry in September/October 2016. The partnership aims to address some of the grand challenges facing contemporary society by providing excellent multidisciplinary training to a new generation of science and business leaders working in the broad field of environmental science. Project studentships are available in a wide range of subject areas, including marine, hydrological and atmospheric systems, natural hazards, ecosystem services and biodiversity, and sustainable development. This open forum offers an opportunity to find out more about the DTP, what it means to be an EnvEast student, and how to apply. If you are interested please come along –no need to book in advance.  See http://www.enveast.ac.uk/home for more information."

Posted by Lisa Johnson on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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The NexUSS Doctoral Training Programme


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Next Generation Unmanned System Science (NexUSS)

The NexUSS Doctoral Training Programme

A new Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Unmanned System Science (NexUSS) has recently been funded with the aim to train the next generation of scientists in the use of Smart and Autonomous Observation Systems (SAOS). Funding was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and will involve 6 partner institutions (University of East Anglia, University of Southampton, Herriot Watt University, National Oceanography Centre, British Antarctic Survey and the Scottish Association for Marine Science). The programme will fund 30 studentships over a 6 year period, and aside from training the students to become world-leading experts in SAOS, it aims to engage end-user partners early in the studentship design stage to ensure that students are then able to provide expertise to the private and public sector with maximum impact.

Recent Research Council UK, Higher Education and industry investment into SAOS technologies including the UEA Seaglider fleet and the Marine Robotics Innovation Centre at NOC will provide the NexUSS DTP with outstanding facilities and research training opportunities. Furthermore, it is hoped that through the use of new technologies and through engagement with potential end-users, the DTP will provide a blueprint for innovation within the marine sector.

A launch event for the training programme will be held on the 2nd of December at the University of Southampton and potential end-users are asked to please attend and present their needs. Information on how to book a place can be found here.

Posted by Tahmeena Aslam on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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EnvEast: Student Projects


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Diatoms

EnvEast: Student Projects

As mentioned in a past blog post, EnvEast student projects are based around three overarching themes: Climate, Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Development and Natural Hazards. These themes allow the students of the EnvEast DTP to cover a broad range of science in a fresh and innovative fashion.

Throughout the course of this blog post, I will discuss my own research project, which falls into the category of Climate, Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Working under the title of ’Do diatoms play an important global role in the production of DMS and it’s precursor DMSP?’, my project falls almost too neatly into Climate, Marine and Atmospheric Science. I say this because those three fields coincide within my project. DMS is a climatically active gas, oxidising to form sulphates in the atmosphere which in turn act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). These CCN assist in cloud formation, which in turn increases solar reflection and has the overall consequence of global cooling. Combine the climate and atmospheric components from the above, with the fact that DMS is produced in bulk through the release and breakdown of the precursor compound DMSP (http://aem.asm.org/content/68/12/5804.full), which biologically synthesised by marine – and to some extent freshwater – phytoplankton and you’ve covered the marine aspect.

The DMS Cycle

Dimethylsulphide (DMS) forms a key transport pathway of sulphur from sulphur-rich seawater to sulphur-depleted landmasses. Accounting for approximately 50-60% of the total natural reduced sulphur flux to the atmosphere, DMS is a vital component of global biogeochemical cycles. More recent estimates suggest that DMS accounts for 90% of biogenic oceanic sulphur emissions.

Without DMS, global temperatures have been predicted to be 1.6’C higher (Speilmeyer et al. 2012), a temperature rise that has the potential to completely melt the Greenland Ice Sheet (Robinson et al., 2012).

Diatoms

Diatoms are the most diverse group of marine phytoplankton, with greater than 200,000 identified species to date. This diversity is reflected in the sheer amount of weird and wonderful morphologies adopted by different diatom species, which have arisen from the series of endosymbiotic evolutionary events over the past 90 million years. They are incredibly important biogeochemical cyclers not only of sulphur, but also carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and silicate. Diatoms occur in such great numbers in the oceans, that their photosynthesis alone accounts for every fifth breath that you take, and thus generate as much organic carbon as all of the terrestrial rainforests combined.

It’s this density and diversity that make diatoms an incredibly interesting study species for DMSP production. Where their synthesis levels under conventional ocean conditions do not match those of other marine phytoplankton, such as dinoflagellates, research has shown that synthesis increases under a number of stress conditions. Such conditions include – but are not limited to – nutrient limitation, UV exposure and both temperature and salinity changes.

Diatoms also have comparatively less space available for DMSP production than other groups of marine phytoplankton, making the ’significant’ quantities produce all the more impressive. This is due to the theory that DMSP is produced in the cytoplasm. Diatoms are the only group of marine phytoplankton that possess a vacuole, which drastically lowers the cytoplasm containing volume of the cell.

Research Implications

Since starting my PhD, I’ve struggled with communicating the implications of my research. Where I investigate how DMSP synthesis changes under different environmental conditions, these results will not inherently change the amount of DMS present in the atmosphere.

However, my results can go to improving current global climate models, particularly those that are carbon based. By using stable isotope methodologies, I hope to incorporate a DMSP synthesis rate for diatoms into existing carbon models. This is will help to more accurately predict future temperature, and consequently better combat climate change.

There are many other aspects to my research project that I have no mentioned here. Some, such as creating a catalogue of volatile trace gases produced by diatoms, have been discussed previously.

This is just one of many innovative and inspirational projects occurring under the banner of EnvEast. You can keep up to date with more of these projects over at Science-Envy.

Posted by Seth Thomas on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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GC-TOF: A Fresh Lease of Life


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GC-TOF: A Fresh Lease of Life

Chromatography is one of the most widely used techniques in atmospheric science today – particularly in projects like my own, looking at volatile trace gases. Trace gas emissions are incredibly important in global geochemical cycling, even if the gas phase of the element is fleeting. Thankfully, due to recent advances in technology – notably in nano- & pico-second timing electronics – sensitivity of gas chromatographic instruments has come on leaps and bounds, allowing comprehensive analysis of these volatile trace gases.

Perhaps at the forefront of these advances, is the GC-TOF, standing for Time of Flight. Although, these advances could more accurately be referred to as a renaissance for ToF analysis…

The Theory

What struck me as I began to learn my way around the TOF here at UEA, was how long the technique had been around. To me, the TOF was an all-singing-all-dancing piece of magic, but it wasn’t always that way.

TOF Mass Spectrometry was introduced in the 1960s, however, it was restrained by the quality of electronic timing mechanisms. That problem has been successfully solved in recent times leaving TOF analysis as a very powerful tool.

The principles behind GC-TOF MS are relatively simple. It involves measuring the time required for an ion to travel from an ion source to a detector over a known distance. If all of these ions receive the same kinetic energy during instantaneous acceleration forth source, due to their different mass to charge ratios , they’ll have different velocities and therefore arrive at the detector at varying times. As TOF instruments have no accelerating potential between the source and the detector – a set up known as field free – as ions move through this region they will separate out into packets according to their velocity. As a result of this, ions of all mass to charge values can theoretically be detected the initial ion packet without the need to scan across a range of ions.

However, linear TOF instruments were not without limitations. Due to production and pulsing of ion packets, ion sampling efficiency led to the development of orthogonal sampling from a continuous ion beam. In these systems, ion packets are pushed out out a continuous collimated ion beam perpendicular to the axis of the flight path. Because the original ion beam is collimated, and some collision cooling can take place within the ion beam, there is reduced radial energy dispersion of ions which translates to an improved resolving power and sensitivity of the instrument.

A further alternative, and future development of the TOF system, is the reflecting TOF analysers. The reflectron present in these systems acts as an ion mirror with an electric field that opposes and is of greater magnitude than the electric field of the ion accelerator – replacing the field free region of linear TOFs. The refletron serves two purposes, firstly to reduce the dimensions of the instrument, and secondly to improve the resolving power of the TOF MS.

Here, ions of the same mass to charge ratio but differing kinetic energies enter the opposing field of the reflection and penetrate to different extents as a result of their kinetic energy. The ions with the highest kinetic energies penetrate the furthest. This causes the ions to decelerate until their kinetic energy dissipates at which point they are accelerated by the electrical field in the opposite direction. As ions with the highest kinetic energies penetrate the furthest, they will gain more kinetic energy upon reflection. This has the overall effect of altering the length of the ion flight paths in proportion to their kinetic energies, hence ions with a distribution of initial energies will be focused at the detector with respect to arrival time.

Implications

The implications of GC-TOF analysis are vast. Due to the high sensitivity and high resolution of the data collected, research in fields such as “volabolomics” can advance at a high rate in the coming years.

The TOF is almost unique in it’s ability to analyse a multitude of mass to charge ratios in a single run, saving both time and researcher effort, which are both invaluable resources. This technique potentially allows for immediate identification of known compounds, deconvolution of co-eluting compounds and minimises the steps required to identify unknown compounds.

To mention my own research, I will be using the GC-TOF to analyse a suite of volatile compounds produced by diatoms at different points of their life cycle. However, this forms the base layer for a far more interesting and ambitious project. Use of the GC-TOF potentially allows the formation an index of volatile compounds produced by certain species. If these volatiles are then observed in the field, the observer could refer to this index, and narrow down the number of species present that could be producing it, and therefore gain insight into the compounds origin.

The GC-TOF has come a long way in the past 60 years, and now stands on the brink of illuminating complex emission patterns in the natural world, and furthering our understanding of trace gas emissions."

Posted by on Mon, 30 Oct 2017



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