Life Below Water Challenge 2: Education


Interview with Zoe Berg by Yangying Ye, Tzu Ching and Ben Bartlett.

Zoe Berg, a graduate student at Lamont Doherty, Columbia University conducted research in the Arabian Sea surrounding noctiluca scintillans, which are a green clergy (notilucious), this past summer as part of a team. Phytoplankton is the basis of the marine food web, so understanding their interaction in the food web is critical. Her research was focused on finding out how Noctiluca scintillans function at a fundamental level. 

The emergence of noctiluca scintillans is tied to the spread of hypoxia (oxygen deplete environments). Massive permeations of noctiluca scintillans cause major restructuring in the food web. Since 2000, their presence has become more prevalent. They’ve always been present, but because of a host of environmental factors including acidification and global warming, they’ve burgeoned. 

Their increasing quantities are a reaction to a paleoenvironment, one that Earth hasn’t seen for over a billion years.They exposed noctiluca scintillans to various atmospheric and corbon dioxide levels, including ambient levels and pre-century levels. Noctiluca scintillans performed best at end-of-century levels. Noctiluca scintillans evolved 1.3 billion years ago. They performed so well in the simulated oxygen deplete time period because that was the environment in which they evolved. 

This recent growth will add to food security issues. Noctiluca perform well in aquatic environments where there is little dissolved oxygen and lots of dissolved carbon dioxide. The study of noctiluca scintillans is important in the field of nixotrophy, because they photosynthesize and eat things. 150 million people live along Arabian Sea. 90% of the population of Oman, a country along the Arabian Sea, rely on desalinated water for drinking water and these plankton (noctiluca scintillans) are clouding the pipeline. Fish are washing ashore. They suffocate because there’s no oxygen in the water anymore. Currently, some residents of the Arabian Sea coastline rejoice at the short term “benefits”, harvesting dead fish washed ashore.

Communication lines are open between coastal country heads of state and Lamont Doherty while they discuss solutions to the diminishing access to fresh drinking water. As Zoe sees it, one solution is education in impacted communities focusing on the implications of blooming noctiluca scintillans. 

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