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That sinking feeling - how do marine diatoms actively control sinking rates?

Project Description

Project Rationale:
Diatoms are one of the most important groups of phytoplankton in our oceans and make a major contribution to the global carbon cycle. Diatom productivity is often limited by the availability of nutrients in surface waters. By controlling their buoyancy, diatoms can sink in the water column to access deeper nutrient-rich waters. This in turn may influence the rate at which diatom-derived organic matter sinks to the deep ocean, which has a critical influence on carbon cycling in the oceans.

Recent evidence has shown that diatoms show a remarkably rapid control of buoyancy. These responses are only observed in nutrient-depleted cells. The rapid changes in sinking rates may therefore increase the diffusive supply of nutrients to the surface of diatom cells.

Diatoms possess sophisticated signalling mechanisms that allow them to sense and respond to their environment. This project will look at the processes that allow diatoms to rapidly regulate their buoyancy. The project will examine whether rapid control of sinking rates is a conserved trait in diatoms and then examine the nature of the signalling mechanisms that allow rapid control of buoyancy. The project will also investigate how nutrient availability influences the sinking rates of natural diatom communities.

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 eligibilty and how to apply


Gemmell BJ, Oh G, Buskey EJ, Villareal TA (2016). Dynamic sinking behaviour in marine phytoplankton: rapid changes in buoyancy may aid in nutrient uptake. Proc Biol Sci. 283(1840).

Helliwell KE, Chrachri A, Koester J, Wharam S, Verret F, Taylor AR, Wheeler GL, and Brownlee C. (2019). Alternative mechanisms for fast Na+/Ca2+ signalling in eukaryotes via a novel class of single-domain voltage-gated channels. Current Biology. 29 (9), 1503-1511.

Moore CM, Mills MM, Arrigo KR et al, (2013). Processes and patterns of oceanic nutrient limitation
Nature geoscience 6 (9), 701-710

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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