You have received an "Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship" from the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF. What does it mean to you to receive this Fellowship?
I look forward to making an important contribution to ocean research and understanding climate change over the next few years. In addition, the Eccellenza Fellowship will enable me to establish my own research group and to set priorities in the field of marine and climate research at the University of Bern.
You have been selected from the SNF for your research project «Biological carbon cycling in the future ocean (BioCycle)». What is the project about?
It concerns the biological pump, which is the downward flow of organic carbon from the upper ocean. The motor driving this pump is plankton: The microorganisms transport large amounts of the carbon dioxide they process into the deep sea and to the seabed. Without this process, the CO2 concentration in the earth’s atmosphere would be much higher.
Marine plankton communities therefore have a significant influence on our climate and also form the basis of the marine food chain. Despite its importance, the biological pump is only rudimentarily understood, and predictions of how the marine biological carbon cycle will change as a result of climate change are very uncertain. One reason is that for many oceanic regions, only very few measurements are available. Therefore, models have to estimate important parameters, which leads to inaccurate predictions. BioCycle will use data from the latest generation of Argo floats – autonomous, freely drifting measuring buoys that regularly measure temperature, oxygen content and nutrient concentration in the water. Based on this data, I will be able to explore the operation of the biological pump in more detail and thus produce more accurate model predictions of the biological pump under climate change.
What made you chose the University of Bern for your Project?
The University of Bern offers ideal conditions for my research: I have excellent connections to other climate researchers at the Institute of Climate and Environmental Physics and the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research. In addition, two of the ocean models that are relevant for my work are already being used at the institute. This will make it easier for my employees to get started with modeling.
What is the social relevance of your project?
Climate change is undoubtedly the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st century. Although the ocean may seem far away when viewed from Switzerland, we are all affected by large-scale changes in the plankton communities – whether through their influence on climate change or through changes in the food base for edible fish. My research project will contribute to a better understanding of the ocean on a changing planet.