PlyMSEF Medal Lecture - Marine Microbial Respiration - a Known Unknown

PlyMSEF Medal Lecture - Marine Microbial Respiration - a Known Unknown

The 36th PlyMSEF Plymouth Marine Science Medal Lecture, entitled 'Marine microbial respiration – a known unknown' will be given by Carol Robinson, Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of East Anglia and Marine Biological Association Trustee.


Marine microbes are the heavy breathers of the world’s ocean, taking in dissolved oxygen, degrading detrital material and breathing out hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The amount and variability of microbial respiration is a key control on the balance between the amount of carbon which is stored in the deep ocean and the amount of carbon dioxide which is released back into the atmosphere. It is important to be able to predict how respiration and ocean carbon storage may change in a changing climate, as an increase in respiration could contribute to global warming.

The pivot between respiration and carbon storage is also used to evaluate ocean-based approaches to enhance the uptake of carbon dioxide into the ocean, in an attempt to avoid a temperature rise of greater than 1.5 oC above pre-industrial levels.


Yet, despite its crucial importance, respiration remains one of the least well known microbial metabolic processes. This is due to the challenge of making measurements in the deep sea and of sharing and interpreting measurements over global scales. However, a raft of new sensors on autonomous floats and gliders, new technologies which avoid errors due to sample handling, and new techniques which can detect the respiration of individual microbial cells are enabling improved understanding and predictive capability.

This presentation will take a cellular to ocean scale, historical to future, view of the challenges and potential solutions to measuring how much the ocean breathes.

The talk will start at 18:00 with doors open from 17:30.

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