Frances Hopkins is a marine chemist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, where she is investigating the effect of ocean acidification (OA) on the production and cycling of atmospherically-important marine trace gases. On this cruise, Frances will study the effects of OA on a gas called dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which is produced in large quantities by plankton communities. You may never have heard of DMS but it is actually both rather important and rather familiar. The reason it is familiar is because it contributes to the “smell of the sea”; it is a key ingredient in the cocktail of gases released from the oceans that gives the seaside its distinctive smell. The reason it is important is because DMS is a gas that helps control our climate by influencing the formation of clouds. Her work will involve a lot of chemical analysis, and also some biology. Working together with John Stephens, they will use two GCs (Gas Chromatographs) with different kinds of detectors (a flame photometric detector and a mass spectral detector) to measure DMS in seawater and phytoplankton cells. Frances and John hope that the information they get during this Arctic expedition will be of use to climate modellers, helping them to predict the climate of our future high CO2 world.
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