I am an isotope geochemistry PhD student and my work involves investigating the biogeochemical cycling of key trace micronutrients in the oceans.
Trace micronutrients such as zinc and iron are essential for the growth of living organisms in the ocean because they are needed for a variety of cell functions. Living organisms, such as phytoplankton, photosynthesise in the surface of the ocean which absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Therefore, these tiny plants act as an important carbon sink and can have a big influence on the Earth’s climate.
We can use stable isotope compositions of trace metals as a tool to understand complex biological processes and the biological pump. In turn these insights may lead to an improved understanding of likely past or future changes in the carbon cycle.
We refer to the element as ‘trace’ because they exist in very tiny amounts in the ocean (<0.1 µM) which makes analysing them very challenging and requires a multi-collector mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS).