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My research field in short …

22.02.11, 17:04 (comments: 0)

Most people assume that marine biologists deal with wales or other big animals, but, in fact, 99.9% don't. My research field is within the marine nitrogen cycle.

Nitrogen is one of the most important elements for all marine life as biomolecules like DNA or amino acids contain nitrogen. The availability of nitrogen determines whether a sea area is a rich fishing ground or a marine desert.

Microalgae like diatoms, dinoflagellates, or cyanobacteria have preferences for different nitrogen species which they take up and use for growth. For example, diatoms are very fast in taking up nitrate and outcompete dinoflagellates and cyanobacteria which are better adapted to the uptake of ammonium and N2, respectively.

Herbivore zooplankton grazes upon these microalgae. One of the most abundant herbivore groups in the ocean are tiny copepods of 1-2 mm size (see attached pictures). Copepods prefer to graze upon diatoms and dinoflagellates and less upon cyanobacteria, which often are too large in size, toxic, or of poor nutritious quality. Copepods are the main prey for fish larvae and small fish.

The amount and the types of nitrogen in the ocean may be altered which consequently may lead to large changes in the food web structure. Furthermore, climate change will enhance the temperature of the ocean and as a consequence, warm-loving algae species like cyanobacteria may increase. Unfortunately cyanobacteria are hardly grazed and are generally regarded as a dead end of the food web. At the moment it is not clear how changes among the microalgae may affect the copepods.

My research interest is to investigate nitrogen metabolism changes in copepods in different microalgae food environments. I hope my studies will help us to estimate future changes in the ocean's food web.

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