Category Archives: Home

Using the past to predict the future of coccolithophores

Follow @esargent184

Some of the most progressive and interesting science happens when experts from different fields come together to tackle the same problem. Recently a group of plankton ecologists teamed up with some palaeontologists to assess how climate change impacts the growth of specific species of coccolithophores, both in modern times and during  a period of warming 56 million years ago. They showed that two species of coccolithophore responded very differently to this event. Continue reading Using the past to predict the future of coccolithophores


The truth behind that job advertisement for a lectureship/assistant professorship

Follow @D_Aldridge

Location: Somewhere you don’t want to live
Salary: Nowhere near enough given the ridiculous number of qualifications you have
Contract type: Full-time permanent*
Interview Date: Don’t worry, you probably won’t make this stage

 *”Permanent” refers to your expected working hours on campus, NOT your job security, benefits, healthcare etc.


Continue reading The truth behind that job advertisement for a lectureship/assistant professorship

Overly honest (marine science) methods

Dr Leigh (@Dr_Leigh) started a genius Twitter hashtag (#OverlyHonestMethods), allowing scientists to come forward and admit how they might really write those extremely dull method sections if journals gave them complete freedom to be extremely blunt. Here are Words in mOcean’s  own marine science suggestions that you may have been temped to include in your papers: Continue reading Overly honest (marine science) methods

5 reasons why dinoflagellates are friggin’ awesome:

Follow @D_Aldridge

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:

‘Twas the night before Christmas (phytoplankton edition)

Follow @D_Aldridge

A reworked (some would  say ‘improved’) version of  Clement Clarke Moore’s classic Christmas poem:

christmas plankton‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the ‘photic zone,
Few creatures were stirring, most plankton were all alone;
The water was mixed, with nutrients galore,
Critters hoping come spring, temperatures would soar. Continue reading ‘Twas the night before Christmas (phytoplankton edition)

Calcifying plankton and climate change

Follow @D_Aldridge

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

Follow @D_Aldridge

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

An Inconvenient Merger: Al Gore has his say on the NOC/BAS merger

There is a strong chance that the proposed merging of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) with the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is going to harm the UK’s ability to conduct climate change research. There is also a suspicion amongst many that the NOCS/BAS merger ‘consultation’ is just for show, and that the decision has already been made to merge the two institutions. It is perhaps fitting then that veteran of phony ‘democratic’ processes, former democrat presidential candidate (and Vice-President) Al Gore, has decided to weigh in with his opinion on the matter: Continue reading An Inconvenient Merger: Al Gore has his say on the NOC/BAS merger

Half of everything you [n]ever wanted to know about diatoms

Image 1: SEM (scanning electron microscopy) image of a diatom showing its ‘elaborate glass wall’.

Diatoms, a group of phytoplankton, are amazing on a variety of levels. For one thing, their cell walls are made of silica meaning each one lives in a little glass house, and an elaborate one at that (Image 1). Those ornate ‘holes’ do have a function. One of the biggest hurdles phytoplankton face is avoiding sinking. Since silica is dense compared to seawater, this honeycomb-esque pattern reduces the weight of diatom, thus still allowing it to benefit from the protection provided by a ‘glass’ wall without causing it to sink rapidly. They also use other mechanisms to reduce sinking such as carbohydrate ballasting or air bubble entrapment among setae (spines). Continue reading Half of everything you [n]ever wanted to know about diatoms

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