Mineral dust is a key player in the Earth’s climate system; it impacts the balance between incoming and outgoing radiation in the atmosphere, it may spread pathogens that are potentially harmful for both marine and terrestrial life around the globe and it acts as a fertilizer for the ocean.
The idea behind the fertilisation hypothesis is that mineral dust contains nutrients (macro- as well as micro nutrients) of which phytoplankton in the ocean can profit. To study the marine-environmental impacts of mineral dust we are monitoring the transport and deposition of Saharan dust across the Atlantic Ocean as well as in the Persian Gulf.
The question is how bio-available nutrients in dust are and under which conditions phytoplankton can really access these nutrients and use them for their reproductive cycle. The bio-availability of the different nutrients can be quantified using a so-called sequential leaching procedure in which mineral dust is exposed to different fluids with increasing corrosivity. At NIOZ – Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, we have excellent geochemical labs to study the bio-availability of nutrients in dust.
We are now looking for a motivated MSc student to quantify the bio-availability of nutrients in different types of mineral dust from the Sahara and the Middle East. Start date as soon as possible.