Oxford scientists are actively engaged in a variety of studies within the scientific discipline of “biogeochemistry”, that is to say they study various aspects of the chemical, physical, biological and geological processes that govern the composition of the natural environment. Of particular importance to the climate change issue is the study of the cycles of chemical elements such as carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus. Scientists study how these elements interact with, and become incorporated into, living things and get transported through earth-scale biological systems in space and through time.


Approaches range from geochemical proxies measured on fossils in sediments and in cultures of phytoplankton in the laboratory, probing the genetics and physiology of key biochemical processes such as photosynthesis, carbon concentration and iron metabolism, to the groundtruthing of remote sensing for modelling of primary production across the global oceans. At the heart of these research projects is a desire to understand how marine organisms influence the climate system through physical and biogeochemical feedbacks as oceans warm and become more stratified, oxygen poor and acidic. In addition to trying to understand the impacts of global change in such sensitive and rapidly changing environments as the Arctic, we are also using the evolutionary history of phytoplankton and their record of adaptation as a predictor of their success in the future.


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Relevant Research Groups

Biological Oceanography

Understanding marine phytoplankton production and the utility of marine bio-optics and molecular biology as tools for monitoring marine ecosystems.

Isotopes and Climate

Focused on assessing chemical inputs and mixing, micronutrient isotopes, Ocean Anoxic Events, modelling metal cycles, alkalinity addition.

Ocean Biochemistry

Investigating the role of marine phytoplankton in the carbon cycle.