Primary production determines the energy entering the base of marine food-chain and the carrying capacity of marine ecosystems. Every organism on our planet needs micronutrients such as iron, zinc, copper, manganese nickel and cobalt for enzymatic functions.
Copper is a perplexing element as it has 'Jekyll and Hyde' characteristics at low and high concentrations. At low concentrations copper is beneficial to phytoplankton growth, while at high concentrations copper is toxic. Central to controlling its multiple personalities are the different chemical forms (speciation) in which copper exists.
To probe the regulatory role copper has on primary production, a three-pronged approach will be used. Specifically, chemical speciation and isotope measurements of copper will be made on:
- Coastal and open-ocean waters
- Naturally-occurring biota
- Cultured phytoplankton.
This is a multidisciplinary project integrating marine chemistry and biology, and includes a strong fieldwork component. Students would be involved in collecting samples, growing phytoplankton, making chemical speciation measurements and the communication of the work.