19 March 2018

Master's project: Effects of Greenlandic glacier flour on marine plankton community composition and productivity


The Geobiology and Minerals Section and Greenland Perspective are looking for a highly motivated biology student for a master's project on the effects of Greenlandic glacial rock flour on plankton and algae in marine environments.

Large amounts of glacier flour is naturally transported from land to the coastal areas of the west coast of Greenland, where it potentially will impact the plankton community structure and productivity. The flour is composed of very fine particles with median size ranges less than 10 µm. The chemical composition is currently under investigation, but it is known to be highly reactive whenever it is exposed in surficial environments, and it contains minor nutrients such as iron, silicon, and phosphorous. Enhanced chemical weathering of the silicate component in the rock flour may help reduce the potential effects of global ocean acidification of Greenlandic coastal waters, because it will increase their inorganic carbon pool and pH buffering capacity.The inputs of minor nutrients may increase the primary productivity of the coastal waters, which will lead to increased capacities to withdraw more CO2 from the atmosphere and counter the effects of ocean acidification. 

Glacial rock flour flowing into the sea.

A new project, MarineGreen, has recently been funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation (Project led by Prof. Minik Rosing, SNM), and the M.Sc. will be part of a working group on the project.

The project goals and expected results
The overall goal of this M.Sc. project is to study the effects of the Greenlandic glacier flour on microalgae and on microzooplankton grazers. The short-term effects of the glacier flour will be investigated experimentally by applying the flour at different concentrations. The flour may directly kill the cells due to its surface properties, or it may lead to aggregate formation of the plankton organisms and thereby transport the organism out of the pelagic phase. The response of the micrograzers may be that they can select against the particles or it may be that particles will be ingested and lead to starvation of the grazers. Apart from the direct effects, the flour will probably dissolve to some extent and that will impact the chemistry on the seawater, most probably leading to increased primary production. Most of the work will carried out in DK as laboratory studies, but the project offers opportunities to carry out field work in Greenland.   

Interested? Please contact: Per Juel Hansen pjhansen@bio.ku.dk or Nicholas Rose, nrose@snm.ku.dk