Our Research Group currently focuses on three central themes for research.
Biogeochemistry of Trace Metals and Phytoplankton Ecology
Phytoplankton and bacteria have a range of essential trace metals as nutrients, and the availability of these metals influences the composition and total production of planktonic communities. Planktonic communities in turn influence the chemical speciation of trace metals, and thus the availability of metals for uptake by releasing metal specific organic complexing ligands. We are contributing to this understanding by studying how metals, primarily iron, and metal complexing ligands affect phytoplankton fixation and export of carbon to deep waters, and more specifically the success and toxicity of Harmful Algal Species.
Optical Characteristics of Coloured Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) in Seawater
Marine dissolved organic matter comprises one of the major reserves of organic carbon on the earth’s surface. A major fraction of this dissolved matter contains chromophores that hinder the ability to remotely study plankton distributions by satellite, and the factors controlling the abundance and optical character of this CDOM are not well understood. We study how very small organic particles sized between 1-1000 nanometers (colloids) contribute to CDOM variability to improve the ability to predict changes in CDOM and thereby assist in developing improved algorithms for remote sensing.
Nanotechnology and the Design of Oceanographic Sensors
Oceanography has progressed rapidly over the past 6 decades by utilizing research vessels as platforms for scientific measurements, but recent evolution towards global-scale questions challenges the ability to acquire adequate spatial sampling using only ships. As a consequence there is increasing oceanographic interest in developing new sensors for use on moorings and autonomous vehicles. We are contributing to this effort by developing nanoscale sensors for measuring nutrient trace metals at the ultralow concentrations occurring in oceanic waters.
Recent Research Cruises
The Wells lab returned recently from studying coastal waters off British Columbia and offshore waters of the subarctic Pacific Ocean on the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson . Link to our Teacher-at Sea webpage to get the daily log on the science being done, and people on board and a UMaine Today magazine article about the cruise.