Project title: Plasticity of Phytoplankton in a Changing Ocean and Implications for Primary Productivity in Eastern Australian waters.
Supervisors: Professor Martina Doblin and Dr. Sinead Collins (University of Edinburgh)
A semester at the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Cape Cod and the Caribbean doing ocean research in a tall ship in undergrad started out a life-long interest in marine science, and the drive to improve understanding of the importance of ocean resources.
After receiving a Masters of Science studying iron limitation of phytoplankton under Dr. David Hutchins (USA), I worked with the United Nations, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Census of Marine Life, PEW Environment Group, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Nature Conservation Council of NSW and Landcare Australia in various campaigning, education, outreach and marine policy positions.
In 2017 I decided to get back to science and joined the COAST lab of Dr. Martina Doblin in a part-time capacity.
Global climate change is significantly impacting our oceans. Although the impact of increased environmental variability on phytoplankton ecology and community composition is unknown it is generally thought that highly plastic species will be increasingly important in future climate change scenarios. This research will characterise the timescales of regional environmental change and dynamics of ocean eddies in South-eastern Australia and examine how they match the timescales of diatom acclimation by probing regional taxa. These observations and experiments will provide insight into the responsiveness of traits to changing ocean conditions in this region, and advance understanding of the thresholds above which primary productivity of diatoms is expected to decline or increase under climate stress.
- Determine the phytoplankton species composition and community primary productivity in mesoscale eddies in south-eastern Australia;
- Isolate diatom taxa from south-eastern Australian waters and determine their timescale of acclimation to changes in the environment, focussing particularly on traits that influence biogeochemical carbon transformations;
- Simulate different regimes of environmental variability and test theoretical predictions about which strategies diatom taxa (alone and in combination with others) use to persist, and how this correlates with primary productivity and other traits.
Change in community dynamics effect global biogeochemical cycles and the foodweb, and impact carbon export rates, therefore investigating diatom strategies of persistence is essential to predict and assess phytoplankton community shifts and their consequences.
Australian Government’s Research Training Program Scholarship
UrbanGrowth Development Corporation. (2017) The Bays Water Quality Strategy, UGDC, Sydney. Contributors: D. P.Harrison, R. Mc Manus, K. Dafforn, B. Kuhn, and G. Firme.
Firme, G.F. (2008). Ocean Iron Fertilization: Ecological and Policy Implications. 4th Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands: Mitigation Measures to Climate Change Impacts Session, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Firme G.F., Bruland K.W., Rue E.L., Weeks, D.A. and D.A. Hutchins.(2003). Spatial and temporal variability in phytoplankton iron limitation along the California coast and consequences for Si, N and C biogeochemistry. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 17 (1): 1016-1029.
Firme G.F., Hutchins D.A, Rue E.L. and K.W. Bruland. (2001). The spatial extent of iron limitation in the Humboldt Current and Peru Upwelling and effects on nutrient drawdown ratios. ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting, Albuquerque, NM.
Firme G.F. and D.A. Hutchins. Iron limitation in the California Coastal Upwelling System (2001). Plankton Symposium, Espinho, Portugal.
Firme G.F., Hutchins D.A., Weeks D., and K. Bruland. (2000). Mapping the Temporal and Spatial Variability in Phytoplankton Iron Limitation Along the Northern California Coast. Ocean Sciences Meeting, San Antonio, TX.