Its easy to take diversity for granted. And I really do mean that in all sense of the meanings of diversity. As part of a ‘Uni’ training course I am working in a team with four colleagues from across the campus who I would have otherwise never met – from Law, Marketing and Human Resources. Not only are we diverse but our project is about how others view diversity in the people they meet on campus – never quite such an important topic have I had the pleasure to work on and especially so in the current socio-political climate when “ecology rules” – i.e. when competition and hardship is perceived cooperation declines.
But it also strikes me exactly how diverse our PGR/PGT research community is. Over the last few months I have recruited four new Tropical Marine Biology masters. They are amazing and they are just this week embarking on their projects – two in the field studying Herbivory in the Indo-Pacific and the Mediterranean and two working in the #fishsci labs on fish growth and behaviour. In addition we have two Masters by dissertation students – who are working on development of sustainable marine economic policy and reef herbivory respectively.
Half of this group are not from the UK. Of those 2/3 are not from Europe. Isn’t that wonderful! Just amazing that as a person working in lil’ ole British Isles we get to meet people from all over the world. It would be easy to take this for granted – it was not always thus – and it would be easily lost.
The classical understanding of what drives blooms of freshwater algae and phytoplankton – warm water and nutrients – probably stands. In fact a recent whole lake experimental study in the USA found that available phosphorous was still the main predictor for cyanobacterial biomass and could be detected in enough time to take preventative action (Pace et al. 2016). But water bodies are variable – especially in size and chemistry and whether this longstanding pattern is ubiquitous is not clear. Here in the south of England we have large eutrophic drinking water reservoirs but little catchment rainfall – so water bodies are often a mix of water sources pumped from what can be different catchments. Despite this an early look at long term data suggests Phosphorous availability is highly correlated with algal biomass.
The problem is long term data is bias – there is more of it in the past when some of the more recent multi-stressors on freshwater environments were not so prominent, especially temperature.
We at Essex – myself, Eteinne Low-Decarie & Graham Underwood – are investigating the control of algal production, algal community composition and the biochemical feedbacks from algae (e.g. gases) in reservoirs in southern England. We will be starting up a number of lab and field based projects over the coming months and one such project – characterising control of algal production in pelagic and littoral reservoir habitats – is starting this week spearheaded by PhD student Amie Parris. So look out for our updates on Twitter!