School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington
Mathematical Modelling of Productivity and Biomass Along a Latitudinal Gradient in the Ross Sea
Each year, an area of sea ice more than twice the size of Australia forms in Antarctic during winter and melts in summer. This ice provides a unique habitat for spectacular growth of micro-organisms (bacteria, algae, and phytoplankton). They are the "grass of the sea": these organisms provide the energy base of the food web by fixing essential elements and recycling nutrients for consumption by other organisms. The microbial community is the most diverse form of life in Antarctica, but we still do not understand how they support local ecosystems. Furthermore, about 99% of them are un-described and will remain so if traditional methods to catalogue them are employed.
I will link physical, geographic and biological data into a mathematical model of population dynamics that will summarise the biodiversity at each site, both temporally and geographically. The model will take advantage of satellite technology to relate climate conditions, ice thickness and snow cover, and chlorophyll concentrations to the state of health of the population at the time of sampling.