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

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

Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Jorge Sarmiento (Princeton University) – A biogeochemical paradigm shift

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 Jorge Sarmiento, titled ‘A biogeochemical paradigm shift’. Enjoy! Continue reading Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Jorge Sarmiento (Princeton University) – A biogeochemical paradigm shift

One-man swimming research vessels set to save UK a fortune

Disclaimer: The following post may not be factually accurrate

Ben Fogle’s attempt to swim the Atlantic, in a wetsuit that will capture information about various aspects of the ocean, has reportedly given the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) an idea for their next round of budget cuts. In a world exclusive, head of NERC, Barry Bureaucracy, revealed to Words in mOcean that the new plans would see “oceanographers given the opportunity to form themselves into ‘one-man swimming research vessels’, freeing up millions of pounds for the Tory government to put directly into bankers’ pockets”. Under this proposal, NERC’s current fleet of research ships (RRS Discovery, James Cook, and James-Clark Ross) would be converted into luxury yachts and sold, at knock-down prices, to hedge-fund managers and Russian billionaires.

Continue reading One-man swimming research vessels set to save UK a fortune