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Dynamic phytoplankton iron physiology and its impacts on global ecosystem function

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 03, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Primary production couples solar energy arriving at the Earth’s surface to global biogeochemistry, linking elemental cycles together through the synthesis of organic molecules. In particular, the proportion of carbon to dissolved iron in biological production is a key factor that determines how much carbon can be sequestered across vast regions of the open ocean. If the elemental composition of plankton biomass was fixed, oceanic production in iron-limited regions would be set primarily by the supply of dissolved iron. Indeed, many global ocean biogeochemical models rely on this assumption (1). However, both laboratory experiments (phytoplankton cultures) and oceanic observations indicate marked variability in the iron content of marine phytoplankton and organic matter. Despite its importance, phytoplankton iron physiology is currently poorly constrained, especially under dynamic conditions (2). This project aims to address this issue, using experimental cultures of diatom species to better constrain the iron physiology of phytoplankton in a highly dynamic ocean. These experiments will then be used to develop numerical models linking sub-cellular physiology to global biogeochemical cycles (3).

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


1. A. Tagliabue, et al., How well do global ocean biogeochemistry models simulate dissolved iron distributions? Global Biogeochemical Cycles 30, 149–174 (2016).
2. A. Marchetti, et al., Comparative metatranscriptomics identifies molecular bases for the physiological responses of phytoplankton to varying iron availability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, E317–E325 (2012).
3. B. A. Ward, et al., EcoGEnIE 1.0: Plankton Ecology in the cGEnIE Earth system model. Geoscientific Model Development, 4241–4267 (2018).

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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