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CSIRO-UTAS PhD Program in Quantitative Marine Science

UTAS Home > IMAS Home > NEW QMS PhD Projects  >  *NEW* Metrics for Phytoplankton Physiology status in the Southern Ocean

*NEW* Metrics for Phytoplankton Physiology status in the Southern Ocean

UTAS supervisor
Prof Phil Boyd
Area of expertise: marine biogeochemistry, plankton ecology, marine ecological responses to global change

Dr Christina Schallenberg
Area of expertise: iron limitation of phytoplankton productivity, non-photochemical quenching of phytoplankton fluorescence as an indicator of iron stress

Dr Robert Strzepek
Area of expertise: phytoplankton physiology

CSIRO Supervisor

Dr Tom Trull
Area of expertise: marine biogeochemistry, autonomous systems for marine observations, marine carbon cycle

A key limitation to confident estimates of global ocean productivity, and thus its contribution to
food security, is lack of information regarding the physiological status of phytoplankton.
Assessment of their photosynthetic competency in time and space is a crucial requirement for
improved estimates and models of oceanic productivity. This is especially true for areas such as
the Southern Ocean, where excess nutrients open the possibility of enhanced productivity, and
production is currently limited by lack of the trace element iron (Fe). This project will focus on
developing metrics for the status of phytoplankton health, with emphasis on Southern Ocean species
and physiological stress due to iron limitation. In particular, the project will involve the use of
optical techniques that offer the possibility of rapid, non-invasive assessment, including via
robotic profiling sensors and satellite remote sensing. The student is expected to conduct a
diverse mix of oceanographic field work and laboratory incubations. The experimental results will
inform efforts to extend existing models of phytoplankton physiology to simulate fluorescence
characteristics, including their expected responses to light and iron stress. In addition, working
with satellite and autonomous float observations, and developing/improving biogeochemical and ocean
circulation models are also encouraged.

  • Essential skills/experience:
  • Skills in quantitative physical or biological science or engineering
  • Computing skills, e.g. in Matlab, R, or Python
  • Strong interest in phytoplankton photophysiology
  • Desirable skills/experience:
  • Interest/experience in (optical) oceanography, biogeochemistry and phytoplankton ecology
  • Experience/knowledge of instruments or sensors
  • Experience with laboratory and shipboard methods
  • An aptitude for multi-disciplinary research