Project Title: Sulphur-mediated phytoplankton ecophysiology: the role of DMSP in marine microbial food webs and cellular function
Supervisors: Dr. Katherina Petrou and Prof. Justin Seymour
Research gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eva_Fernandez15
After completing my bachelor´s and master’s degrees in chemistry, I left Spain to research while traveling. My first destination were the Azores islands where I researched the feasibility of using nematodes as pests control in order to get rid of chemical pesticides from agricultural lands. After that, I moved to the tiny country-island of Malta where I used barnacles to test the effect on the environment of new eco-friendly boat paints. Finally, I landed in Australia and joined the Climate Change Cluster (C3) within UTS to pursue my PhD.
Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) is a key sulphur compound in the marine environments, which satisfies 95% of the sulphur and 15% of the carbon demands of marine microbes.
DMSP is also the precursor of the climatically active gas dimethylsulfide (DMS), which is well recognised as the main natural source of reduced sulphur to the global troposphere and to the atmospheric sulphur burden. Once in the atmosphere, DMS can increase cloud formation and light scattering, which results in a decrease in sea surface temperature and solar radiation. Therefore, DMS has the potential to regulate local climate and counteract some of the effects of climate change.
Phytoplankton are the major producers of DMSP, and together with heterotrophic bacteria perform DMSP cycling and transformation. Phytoplankton and bacteria can take up DMSP, and incorporate it into their biomass or convert it to DMS. However, the preferred conditions for each pathway to take place are still unknown.
My project aims to cover two different aspects of the role of DMSP in phytoplankton physiology.
1. On the community level:
- How is DMSP distributed throughout marine microbial communities?
- How much DMSP is retained in the marine food web i.e. diverted from atmospheric fluxes?
2. At cellular level:
- Do Phytoplankton use DMSP to overcome different stressors? Which stressors?
- In Which processes is DMSP involved under these stressors?
On completion, my research will reveal the specific role of DMSP in cell functioning and it will determine whether or not DMSP plays a direct role in phytoplankton adaptive capacity and resilience and how wide spread its utility and influence is throughout the non-producing community.