The NOC Ocean BioGeosciences group researches natural and anthropogenic earth system processes extending from the ocean surface to beneath the seafloor. We are an integrated and world-leading research group with a focus on marine biogeochemistry, ecology and geosystems.
Our mission is to seek new knowledge and understanding of the changing ocean environment, its impacts and feedbacks on humanity and the natural world. This is currently critical with ocean warming induced by harmful greenhouse gas emissions and increasing human use of the marine environment as a result of population expansion and industrialisation. Much of the excess atmospheric heat and CO2 finds its way into the ocean, affecting circulation and chemistry with uncertain consequences for the planet as we know it.
OBG scientists are at the forefront of illuminating the oceanic part of the global carbon cycle, and how it is entwined with marine life and the ocean environment. We study marine ecosystems from the surface to the seafloor. We investigate seafloor geology and chemical fluxes that provide heat and fluids rich in metallic and organic compounds, such as from natural hydrocarbon seeps or underwater volcanoes that may also pose a hazard to coastal communities or seafloor infrastructure. We also study the biological and chemical processes driving the uptake and storage of carbon in the ocean. All these processes contribute to supporting a complex web of marine life from microscopic bacteria to fish and mammals that make the ocean such a fascinating and largely undiscovered natural environment.
Occupying over 70% of the planet’s surface area, the vast spaces of the global ocean is largely unexplored, for example, with less than 30% of the seafloor being mapped in detail. The ocean offers both a potential buffer against climate change, and a wealth of natural resources, both mineral and organic. We seek to provide the latest scientific evidence and advice to inform societal debate and policy around more sustainable management of ocean resources (such as living resources and minerals), including climate change mitigation measures (such as carbon capture and geological storage), and responsible waste management (for example, to reduce the impact of plastics in the ocean).
We are a group of marine scientists who investigate biogeochemical processes in the ocean, from the sea surface to the sediments. Starting near the ocean surface, we study the distribution of microscopic plants (phytoplankton) in space and time, and how their activity contributes to determining the rate at which CO2 enters and leaves the ocean at the air-sea interface. Most of the carbon fixed by phytoplankton returns to the atmosphere, but a fraction sinks into the deeper water where it may be converted back into CO2 by the biological communities living in the ocean’s “twilight zone”. A lot of our work focuses on quantifying the type of sinking particles, the processes that fragment or consume particles, and the depth in the ocean that the carbon penetrates to, as this determines how long it can be stored out of contact with the atmosphere and so contribute to mitigating climate change.
Leader: Dr James Strong
We are a multidisciplinary team of scientists who aim to build an understanding of seafloor ecosystems through the characterisation and quantification of spatial patterns and temporal variability in their structure and functioning. We combine expertise in taxonomy, biodiversity, benthic ecology, marine biology, geomorphology, sedimentology, hydrography, habitat mapping, image analysis, multivariate & spatial statistics, and the application of machine learning techniques. Our research is based on a combination of sea-going observational work and numerical modelling approaches, and covers all water depths, from the continental shelf and margin to abyssal plains and hadal trenches. We study a wide range of marine ecosystems, mainly, but not exclusively, in deeper waters: submarine canyons, seamounts, abyssal plains, tropical and cold-water coral reefs, seagrass beds, polymetallic nodule fields, and chemosynthetic systems (cold seeps and hydrothermal vents).
Marine Ecosystem Processes
Leader: Dr Anna Lichtschlag
The Marine Ecosystem Processes Group consists of a vibrant mix of researchers with expertise from across a variety of disciplines. We are collectively interested in understanding the consequences of organism-environment interactions, e.g. for carbon and nutrient cycling, and how these are influenced by human activities. Our research approach combines laboratory and field experiments, often involving sea-going research expeditions. It also involves theoretical and numerical approaches to help develop global ecosystem models that are used to predict the future climate on Earth. We work closely with environmental regulators and policy makers to ensure that our research provides the evidence-base for responsible management policies.
Research within the Marine Ecosystem Processes group includes:
Phytoplankton and zooplankton ecology and physiology
Organic matter characterisation
Marine snow biogeochemistry
Environmental pollution and ecotoxicology
Earth system science
Ecological and biogeochemical and modelling
Leader: Dr Mike Clare
We are a multi-disciplinary team of researchers who study active physical processes at and beneath the seafloor, using cutting-edge geophysical, sonar, optical and geochemical technologies for imaging, measuring, monitoring and sampling, to understand global impacts of a dynamic seafloor environments, and to enable the sustainable use of marine resources in the future. We combine expertise in geohazards, sedimentology, high resolution seismic imaging, rock physics and geomechanics, geochemistry, petrology and economic geology and work across the world’s oceans, from the poles to the tropics, from the coast to the deepest trenches. Our aim is to spatially and temporally understand dynamic processes that shape our planet and translate world-class results of societal and economic relevance to a broad range of stakeholders.
Environmental monitoring of seafloor carbon capture and storage
Natural hazards, including large-scale submarine landslides, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and sediment flows and their impact on human population and critical infrastructure
Gas hydrates and seafloor fluid flow in high latitudes to determine feedbacks and links with future climate change
Rock physics and geomechanics to characterise subsurface fluid storage and migration
Frontier submarine settings, including submarine canyons, seamounts, ice-covered settings and hydrothermal vents
Potential of deep-sea mineral resources (seafloor massive sulphides, cobalt-rich ferromanganese crust, polymetallic nodules)
Geoscience solutions for the Energy Transition (e.g. hydrogen, geothermal)