Signatures of the Multiple Scales of Motion in Shaping Marine Phytoplankton Biogeography

Active Project
Signatures of the Multiple Scales of Motion in Shaping Marine Phytoplankton Biogeography

Focus Areas: 

  • Natural Ecosystems
  • Earth System Science

Phytoplankton play key roles as the base of the marine food web and as a crucial component in the Earth’s carbon cycle. Understanding how ocean dynamics influence plankton ecology will add to basic knowledge and inform studies of higher-level marine organism habitat. This project will examine how ocean dynamics across an unprecedented range of scales set, transport and re-organize phytoplankton communities. An interdisciplinary team of researchers will combine satellite data, extensive flow cytometry observations, other existing in-situ measurements, and modeling to achieve these goals. The team will study the combination of physical mechanisms on scales from ones to thousands of kilometers that control the dynamic phytoplankton community biogeography; the observable signatures of these multiscale biogeographical patterns in satellite and in-situ data; the consequences of physical processes of different scales on biogeography, biogeochemistry, higher trophic levels and implication for vulnerability of ecosystems; what’s missed when the various scales are not resolved in observations and models; and how observable signatures can be systematically exploited to best monitor the transport and reorganization of marine phytoplankton biogeography. The work will leverage and bolster existing NASA investments in innovative observations and modeling of physical and biological ocean processes, and help advance systematic approaches for exploiting next-generation remote sensing missions.

Sponsor: NASA Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science (IDS) program

Collaboration: Led by MIT, involving California Institute of Technology/ Jet Propulsion Laboratory and University of Washington

Duration: 3 years

Project Leaders

Research staff
Joint Program; Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences