Seminar: Stephanie Dutkiewicz

Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - 12:00pm

Stephanie Dutkiewicz

Senior Research Scientist, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Modeling the impact of climate change on diverse phytoplankton populations


Phytoplankton are the base of the marine food web and play a crucial role in the earth’s carbon cycle. They are an incredibly diverse group of organisms spanning many biogeochemical and ecological functions, as well as several orders of magnitude in size. Given the important role plankton play in the earth’s climate, there is much interest in making predictions of how these organisms will be impacted by future ocean warming. Most deterministic earth system models used in climate change projections include some level of parameterization of these organisms, but in general, do not address the great diversity of phytoplankton. Here we use a relatively complex mechanistic marine ecosystem model that includes a diverse set of plankton types to explore the impacts under a future warming scenario. The model provides a tool to understand changes to bulk products such as primary production, to determine when trends will be significant, and to explore the changes in plankton diversity. The modeling studies suggest that plankton communities are likely to go through increasingly faster turnover leading to more ephemeral structures over the course of this century, with impact on higher trophic levels. Plankton community structure is likely to have statistically significant trends apparent earlier than many of the bulk products such as Chlorophyll and primary production. We will focus particularly on the smallest phytoplankton as deterministic models and statistical species distribution models (e.g. those that use machine learning techniques with environmental variables such as temperature and light to define biogeography) have dramatically different predictions on how the distribution of these species will change in the future.

Stephanie Dutkiewicz is a senior research scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has a Bachelor of Science (magna cum laude) in Physics from the University of Miami, Florida, and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. Her research interests lie at the intersection of the marine ecosystem and the physical and biogeochemical environment. Her research examines how the physics and chemistry of the ocean determine plankton biogeography, and how in turn those organisms affect their environment. A particular interest is in how the interactions of these components of the earth system will change in a warming world. To advance this research she is involved in developing and using complex numerical models and simple theoretical frameworks, guided by laboratory, field, and satellite observations. 

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