UMass Dartmouth Professor receives National Science Foundation grant for collaborative research on role of eddies on phytoplankton in subpolar North Atlantic

Mechanical Engineering Professor Amit Tandon receives $324,615 for "Role of Mixed Layer Eddies on Phytoplankton Productivity in Seasonally Variable Regimes"

UMass Dartmouth Mechanical Engineering Professor Amit Tandon and his collaborator Dr. Amala Mahadevan of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have received $324,615 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their collaborative project "Role of Mixed Layer Eddies on Phytoplankton Productivity in Seasonally Variable Regimes." The project will support a postdoctoral scientist at UMass Dartmouth and a Ph.D. student in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program for four years. The total cost of the project is $1.1 million with $782k supporting research conducted by Woods Holes Oceanographic Institution.

This project will assess the biological importance of submesoscale processes, not currently represented in global carbon cycle models, in the subpolar North Atlantic. The interaction between the sea surface and the interior of the ocean is instrumental in a variety of processes, including the supply of nutrients for plankton production, as well as, the exchanges of gases and heat with the atmosphere. Features on the order of one kilometer, known as the submesoscale, play an essential role.

Phytoplankton are the baseline of the aquatic food chain. Given this foundational importance, phytoplankton are responsible for much of the transfer of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the ocean. The researchers will assess the effect of eddies and air-sea interaction on phytoplankton during times when a scarcity of light limits photosynthesis during winter and early spring. They will also examine the vertical water flow of nutrient supplies during periods of strong surface stratification in the summer. These process studies will help to address important questions about phytoplankton productivity in the subpolar oceans.

This study also contributes to the understanding of a biologically highly relevant region of the ocean, the subpolar North Atlantic, exploring the role of mixed layer eddies during three distinct phases of the annual cycle - winter, spring, and summer. By modeling the interaction of mixed layer eddies with mesoscale eddies, the study is a novel approach that will provide insight on how this interaction affects the exchange between dense and more turbulent layers of the ocean.

The investigators will also contribute to outreach efforts, including teacher training and ocean literacy workshops through the Ocean Academy at the Ocean Explorium in New Bedford to demonstrate ocean dynamics using numerical and tabletop experiments.

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