Thursday, 16 February 2012

Scientist Profile

Over the next few weeks, we will try to bring you short interviews with many of the young scientists aboard. Today, I caught up with Tom Browning, a PhD student at Oxford University, who told me a little bit about his background and research interests.

Where are you are studying?

 I am in the second year of my PhD at the University of Oxford. I am interested in how the availability of trace metals in the ocean has an effect on the physiological condition of phytoplankton. Some trace metals, particularly iron, are nutritionally essential for phytoplankton yet are present in the ocean at very low concentrations. As phytoplankton are a fundamental part of the ocean-atmosphere biogeochemical system it is important to better understand factors which may be limiting their growth and mapping this on a global scale.

 What is your involvement with the DIMES project?

 This cruise, which is principally investigating the physics of the deep ocean, is a voyage of opportunity for me – not only are we passing through waters which are interesting for mixing, the Southern Ocean is a region of the world which has been suggested to be iron limiting for phytoplankton.

 What do you personally want to get out of this cruise?

My aim is to build up a map of the physiological condition of phytoplankton in the Scotia Sea. We are expecting the availability of iron to play a strong role in this.

What do you enjoy about going to sea and working in oceanography?

 My motivation to study oceanography is that for something which covers most of the Earth’s surface and is such a major factor in key issues such as climate change there is so much more to learn about it. The principal reason for going to sea is therefore to get the data which will give us the information to better understand it. There are definitely other perks though – visiting interesting places, seeing spectacular scenery and wildlife, and meeting other scientists working in the same field are all plus points for going to sea for months on end!

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