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By Laura Bretherton on January 24, 2013 in Antarctic, Ocean Acidification 

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you’ll by now be well acquainted with marine plankton. These little guys are the topic of my PhD, though more specifically, I look at the phytoplankton – the photosynthetic microalgae – and how they might be affected by ocean acidification. That means I’ve been particularly focussed on the bioassay experiments we’ve been conducting at sea, and today marked the end of our second one. With that comes an early start and many water samples to process…

 

My role on this cruise is to look at the physiology of phytoplankton populations, and how that changes over the course of the bioassays. I use an instrument called a fast-rate repetition fluorometer (or FRRF for short), which monitors photosynthesis by detecting fluorescence given off by the chlorophyll inside the microalgae. Because we understand how changes in this chlorophyll fluorescence are linked to photosynthesis, the fluorometer can tell us things like how efficiently the phytoplankton are photosynthesising, or if they’re changing the structures within their cells that catch sunlight.