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Novel microprobes for the geochemical gradients in diffusive boundary layers around marine calcifiers

Project Description

Diffusive boundary layers are common between any two media, e.g. at the sediment-water interface. Indeed, marine organisms, like corals and foraminifera, sense their environment through micron-scale diffusive boundary layers (DBL). Changes in external environment (temperature, pH, water chemistry) influence key physiological processes that determine O2 and pH gradients in the diffusive boundary layer around living organisms. The sensitivity of these processes in turn governs the impact of environmental changes on the organism and potentially offers a source of understudied resilience to climate change. Furthermore, the chemical and isotopic make-up of the organism skeletons also sense these environmental variables and act as “proxies” for past climate. However, what is encoded in the shell/skeleton is influenced by the physiology of the organism, via the chemistry of the DBL (so called “vital effects”)1. The local concentration of dissolved oxygen, a key metabolism indicator, is very difficult to probe near microscopic marine organisms. The same goes for the local pH. There are no reliable tools to perform measurements near organisms, or across other diffusive boundaries, at sufficiently fine scale and to move beyond the state-of-the-art we need an improved understanding of the DBL. This requires a step change in the utility and reliability of microelectrodes that this project will deliver.

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. Foster, G. L., and Rae, J. W. B. (2016) Reconstructing ocean pH with boron isotopes in foraminifera, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science, 44, 10.1146/annurev-earth-060115-012226
2. Sosna, M.; Denuault, G.; Pascal, R. W.; Prien, R. D.; Mowlem, M., Development of a reliable microelectrode dissolved oxygen sensor. Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical 2007, 123 (1), 344-351.
3. Smith, P.J.S., Sanger, R.S. and Messerli, M.A. (2007) Principles, Development and Applications of Self-Referencing Electrochemical Microelectrodes to the Determination of Fluxes at Cell Membranes. In: Methods and New Frontiers in Neuroscience. Ed. Adrian C. Michael. CRC Press. Chapter 18.

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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