Susan Kimmance

My role in EPOCA Arctic

I’m part of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) biogas team which includes Frances Hopkins and John Stephens. Together we’re studying the effects of ocean acidification on production of climate-active gases. My main focus will be to monitor the phytoplankton communities in the mesocosms and perform experiments to assess how the different levels of CO2 affect phytoplankton physiology (how efficiently phytoplankton grow and photosynthesize) and the community composition (changes in phytoplankton species), and whether this increases or decreases production of a potential antioxidant compound within the phytoplankton cells (DMSP). This is important because the climate-relevant gas dimethyl sulphide (DMS) is formed from DMSP.

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My thoughts about the trip

I’m really looking forward to going to the Arctic for the first time, especially as there’s a slim chance that we might see a polar bear! It might be a bit strange having 24 hour daylight though; it might make it difficult to get to sleep. I think it’s going to be a really interesting experiment and I’m really glad that I have this opportunity to work with so many different international scientists on this exciting project.

More about my research

My specialist area is ‘marine microbial ecology’, which simply means that I investigate the relationship between microbes (microscopic organisms) and the environment that they live in. I’m particularly interested in phytoplankton (the microscopic plants) as they are incredibly important to our seas and oceans. Through the process of photosynthesis, these microscopic, single-celled plants nourish the entire food web of the oceans and can even influence our climate; half of the world’s oxygen is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis! I conduct experiments both in the laboratory and in natural coastal waters and the open ocean, to investigate how phytoplankton respond to changes in their surrounding environment that may affect their growth, how quickly they die or are eaten, and how abundant they are. Factors like limiting or excess nutrients, too much or too little sunlight, UV stress, and temperature or pH changes, can all affect phytoplankton physiology. Measuring these effects and understanding how they will affect the marine food web and our climate is what my research is all about.

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