The northern shelf seas of the Arctic are immensely productive, because the confluence of influences from sea ice, nutrient supply and 24-hour summer sunlight conspire to make a paradisaical environment for microscopic algae, or phytoplankton.
However, there is trouble in paradise; the Arctic is undergoing rapid climate change in response to human activity. In the Barents sea, extending between northern Norway and north-west Russia, this change is particularly pronounced; hydrographic features are being displaced northward and there has been a pronounced recession of the sea ice over the last decades.
These environmental changes may alter the consortia of phytoplankton that bloom in the Barents sea.
There is a complex multivariate relationship between phytoplankton taxonomy and higher trophic levels, so such changes are likely to cause a cascade of consequences through the Barents sea ecosystem and its contributions to global biogeochemical cycles.
My research aims to contrive algorithms that can interpret satellite images of the Barents sea in order to discern the taxonomy of phytoplankton blooms that occur there.
My research exists under the aegis of the Arctic PRIZE project, funded by the National Environmental Research Council (NERC), fostering collaboration between several British institutions as well as international partners, especially in Norway.
My work is divided between the collection and analysis of samples of wild phytoplankton communities from the Barents sea, and the divination of the relationship between their optical properties and taxonomic composition by way of multivariate statistical approaches.