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Courtesy of Mike Allen and Steve Gschmeissner

Environmental biophysics of microalgal migration in snow

Project Description:
Microalgae are photosynthetic microorganisms critical to life on Earth and to global
Climate as key players in biogeochemical cycles. They occupy a wide variety of habitats,
including snowfields, where they form patches (>100 m2) on or below the snow surface,
and are known to be important terrestial carbon sinks
[Gray et al. 2020]. However, key
questions, such what environmental conditions lead to the formation of microalgal patches
in snow, and how these are affected by climate warming, remain unanswered. In
particular, several important species of snow algae are known to swim, but the biophysics
of their swimming
[Haw & Croze 2012] has not been used to understand microalgal
movements in snow.

In this PhD research project, the biophysics of microalgal migration in snow will be studied
through a combination mathematical modelling, laboratory and field experiments. The PhD
student will develop an experimental setup to microscopically and macroscopically image
the movements of swimming microalgae in a slab of snow (artificial and field-sampled), in
collaboration with snow physicist
Dr M Sandells of Northumbria University (co-supervisor),
algal biologist
Dr M Davey of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (collaborating
partner) and biotech company
Xanthella (non-CASE collaborative partner). The student
will measure how migrations, and the resulting optical properties of the snow, are affected
by light, gravity and flow, as a function of warming temperatures. The student will also
adapt existing agent based models (ABM) of swimming algae to predict the distribution of
microalgae in snow, comparing these with experiment. The student will gain valuable skills
in biophysical imaging of microbial populations (tracking and Differential Dynamic
Microscopy). Together with continuum-modelling skills and a grounding in practical

microalgal biology, this will provide a broad skill set and cross-disciplinary training.

To find out more please see the following links: https://research.ncl.ac.uk/media/sites/researchwebsites/oneplanet/OP2238%20-%20Otti%20Croze,%20’Environmental%20biophysics%20of%20microalgal%20migration%20in%20snow’.pdf


or contact the project supervisor Otti Croze: Otti.Croze@newcastle.ac.uk