Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research

Tracing the lipid signature of Sargassum blooms into the sediment record

Species of the iconic floating macroalgae Sargassum (after which the Sargasso Sea is named) occur in a range of marine settings with the greatest biomass in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean region and the North Atlantic. Recently, reoccurring influxes of Sargassum, have become a serious concern in many regions as inundations of floating Sargassum have hampered tourism, with repercussions for the local economies. However, it is unclear where the Sargassum blooms originate from, what stimulates them, or how distributions are linked to broader global climate patterns making predictions of future influxes and development of a mitigation strategy difficult.

Sargassum biomass and range interannual variability is high and has proven difficult to document. Since records of floating Sargassum are limited (<20yr), geological records could provide clues as to the causes of the inundations. In order to better understand changes in the timing, location and extent of blooms of floating Sargassum, we eventually aim to study its occurrences in the geological past using lipid biomarkers.

In order to develop this Sargassum organic proxy we need to first examine carefully the lipid signature of Sargassum biomass. In this proposed study we would examine the lipids using mass spectrometry in modern-day Sargassum biomass and surface sediment which was collected recently on the "Sargassum" Cruise led by Professor Linda Amaral-Zettler.

If this is something you would like to do then please contact us. Within the project you will do both lab work (with a focus on organic geochemistry) and data analysis.

We’re looking for motivated MSc students with an enthusiasm for marine science and (organic) geochemistry. You would be based at NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research on Texel.

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