Category Archives: Blog Posts

5 reasons why dinoflagellates are friggin’ awesome:

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Dinoflagellates are large single-celled motile phytoplankton that are extremely widespread and abundant in the ocean. They are astonishing little creatures that – depending on the species – can produce potent neurotoxins, feast on organisms many times larger than themselves (whilst also photosynthesising), travel large distances in search of nutrients, hibernate for up to 100 years, and glow with terrific blue-coloured bioluminesence. So, without further ado, here are five reasons why dinoflagellates are friggin’ awesome: Continue reading 5 reasons why dinoflagellates are friggin’ awesome:

Calcifying plankton and climate change

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Most of you reading this will be very familiar with the story of how ocean acidification is likely to impact marine calcifying organisms: increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is decreasing the pH of the oceans and is proposed to eventually lead to the dissolution of the shells of organisms made from calcium carbonate. It is difficult to work out in the lab, however, exactly what the impact of ocean acidification will be on marine calcifiers, as time pressures favour experiments that only assess short-term acclimation responses of organisms to ocean acidification (rather than long-term potential adaptations). Even when long term experiments have been carried out, they have only looked at the impact of pH change alone (see here), ignoring other relevent variables such as temperature. Continue reading Calcifying plankton and climate change

A guide to iron fertilisation of the ocean

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Image 1: A satellite image of the supposed iron-induced phytoplankton bloom. It seems to attribute all elevated chlorophyll concentrations in the region to the experiment. Chlorophyll is naturally patchy in its distribution, so this image is less than useless (especially as they didn’t even provide satellite images from before the dump!).

It was revealed this week that Russ George, a controversial American Businessman (Deep-Sea News ran a good piece this week covering his chequered history), dumped around 100 tonnes of “iron-rich dirt-like material” off the west coast of Canada in July in order to “gather data targeting all the possible fears that have been raised” about ocean fertilization – an act that is in violation of two international moratoria designed to prevent material from being dumped in the ocean. Judging from the poor quality of news coverage on the issue, which tended to include the deceptive image shown above (Image 1), there are a lot of misconceptions about iron fertilisation of the ocean. Here is the official Words in mOcean idiot’s guide to make you instantly more knowledgeable on this subject. Continue reading A guide to iron fertilisation of the ocean

Collecting snow in the tropics

R/V Atlantic Explorer at sea

After 2 months of packing, planning, prepping, and fretting, I finally boarded a plane to Bermuda in mid August to take part in a research cruise aboard the R/V Atlantic Explorer. This was set to be the third and final research expedition of my PhD, and I had firm plans to tie up some loose ends from previous sampling and to [hopefully] confirm a few hypotheses I’ve been juggling about for the past year. Like any research expedition, we faced a few hurdles with engine troubles and impending tropical storms, but managed to leave port only 2 days late, and were able tack on an extra day of sampling on the end to make up for lost time. All in all there was no harm done, except maybe to my ever-dwindling research training and support grant, which certainly took a few hard knocks with flight changes. Continue reading Collecting snow in the tropics

Up ship creek: More bad news for UK oceanography

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Based on a discussion that took place at Challenger 2012

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In an opening speech that, thankfully, did not contain one utterance of the hateful phrase ‘going forward’ (I was poised ready to count them), Professor Ed Hill (director of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton) talked about future challenges for funding UK oceanography: this talk, from the outset, felt like it was going to be depressing! Continue reading Up ship creek: More bad news for UK oceanography

Gone with the wind: perspectives on offshore wind power

This debate, which took place at the Challenger 2012 marine science conference in Norwich, consisted of four speakers with a broad range of expertise including industry, public perceptions, marine and bird life impacts. Each speaker gave a brief presentation, which is summarised; a question and answer session followed this.

Industry perspective – Paul Reynolds: Development manager at RenewableUK (the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries) Continue reading Gone with the wind: perspectives on offshore wind power

A selection of short talks from Challenger 2012

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There were over 100 talks at this year’s Challenger 2012 conference. We have already covered four of the keynote lectures by Jorge Sarmiento, David Righton, Ken Buessler and Phyllis Lam. Below are summaries of some of the short talks that took place: Continue reading A selection of short talks from Challenger 2012

Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Phyllis Lam (Max Planck Institute) – Microbial nitrogen cycling in oxygen minimum zones


The 15th Biennial Challenger Conference for Marine Science recently took place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, on 3-6 September 2012. There were over 100 talks, 150 posters, a contentious debate on wind power, and a talk on how the UK can maintain its current research infrastructure. Over the next week or so Words in mOcean will be bringing you a recap of the best of the action, starting with four of the keynote lectures. Today’s recap is on the lecture given by Phyllis Lam, titled ‘Microbial nitrogen cycling in oxygen minimum zones’. Enjoy! Continue reading Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Phyllis Lam (Max Planck Institute) – Microbial nitrogen cycling in oxygen minimum zones

Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Ken Buesseler (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) – Controls on and variability in particle export and flux attenuation in the ocean’s twilight zone

The 15th Biennial Challenger Conference for Marine Science recently took place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, on 3-6 September 2012. There were over 100 talks, 150 posters, a contentious debate on wind power, and a talk on how the UK can maintain its current research infrastructure. Over the next week or so Words in mOcean will be bringing you a recap of the best of the action, starting with four of the keynote lectures. Today’s recap is on the lecture given by Ken Buesseler, titled ‘Controls on and variability in particle export and flux attenuation in the ocean’s twilight zone’. Enjoy! Continue reading Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Ken Buesseler (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) – Controls on and variability in particle export and flux attenuation in the ocean’s twilight zone

Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): David Righton (CEFAS) – Fish behaving madly: How integrating oceanography and behaviour can help us think like a fish

The 15th Biennial Challenger Conference for Marine Science recently took place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, on 3-6 September 2012. There were over 100 talks, 150 posters, a contentious debate on wind power, and a talk on how the UK can maintain its current research infrastructure. Over the next week or so Words in mOcean will be bringing you a recap of the best of the action, starting with four of the keynote lectures. Today’s recap is on the lecture given by David Righton, titled ‘Fish behaving madly: How integrating oceanography and behaviour can help us think like a fish’. Enjoy! Continue reading Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): David Righton (CEFAS) – Fish behaving madly: How integrating oceanography and behaviour can help us think like a fish