The chemical and biological economy of the oceans constitutes a core focus for research into the distribution and cycling of materials at Earth's surface. New knowledge of the behaviour and the exchanges of elements and isotopes between the ocean, the atmosphere, the land surface and Earth's interior is urgently required to further our understanding of the controls on ecosystem function, climate change, and natural and anthropogenic fluxes of materials so that the impacts of human activities on the surface environment can be ameliorated and predicted with greater confidence. This requires tight collaboration between biologists, chemists, geologists and physicists in studies of the complex interactions between Earth's surface environments.
In addition, the oceans have always been important to Canada, and are coming to play an increasingly significant role economically and socially in a time of globalization. This is particularly true in British Columbia with its strong Pacific Rim focus, its extensive undeveloped coastline, its historically important commercial and recreational marine fisheries, and its developing interest in offshore energy and mineral exploration. These considerations provide a strong justification for ensuring that ocean sciences are a prominent component of the UBC Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences.
One important attribute of the EOS Oceanography program is the strong interactions that exist between the physical, biological and chemical oceanographers, which ensure an integrated approach to studying ocean systems. Research in the EOS oceanography group involves scales spanning the microscopic to the global. Biologists in the group are interested in phytoplankton, bacteria, viruses, zooplankton, macroscopic invertebrates, and fish. Chemical/geochemical oceanographers at UBC study organic natural products, greenhouse and other marine gases, sedimentary chemistry and palaeoceanography , dissolved organic compounds, and trace metals. Some problems of interest include: ecosystem responses to anthropogenic inputs; causes and impacts of global warming; climate change; fish and invertebrate larval dispersal, life histories, and stock management; geochemical cycles; control mechanisms governing blooms of toxic phytoplankton; and the role that viruses play in controlling plankton populations and causing disease in wild and farmed salmon.
Investigations of the potential of marine natural products to act as lead compounds for the development of drugs for human medicine and their role in marine chemical ecology.
Investigation of the factors responsible for the wide compositional variability of marine sediments, the controls on organic matter burial and nutrient utilization in the ocean, and to use this information to interpret past oceanographic and climatic changes from sediment core records.
Larval ecology, specifically the= biological and physical processes that regulate the abundance and distribution of marine invertebrate populations. There is a focus on marine organisms that are sedentary or sessile as adults, but that have a free-swimming planktonic larval stage of development that remains in the water column until ready to settle as a juvenile or adult. Research has implications for understanding basic ecological processes and population dynamics (i.e., sustainability), the management of ecologically and commercially important species, and marine conservation and habitat management issues.
The biogeochemical behaviour of selected elements or isotopes within the context of modern ocean circulation and productivity, and the use of their sedimentary signatures for interpreting past climatic changes. Current emphasis is on the distribution of two natural radioisotopes (230Th and 231Pa) in the water column and in sea-floor sediments as proxy indices of particle fluxes and both modern and past ocean circulation.
The ecology of Pacific salmon and the use of these species to explore hypotheses about strategies for reproduction, energy allocation, and habitat choice in fishes.
The physical and chemical features of the environment that affect the distribution and abundance of estuarine and marine plankton.
Investigations of trace metal nutrition, acquisition and metabolism by marine phytoplankton and bacteria, and the mechanistic link between variations in glacial-interglacial oceanic Fe bioavailability & phytoplankton assemblages.
Investigations of biogeochemical cycles using inverse methods. Distributions of various elements, their isotopes, and their chemical speciation in the natural environment are studied, providing clues to the mechanisms that produce these patterns.
Pelagic tunicate biology in the Southern Ocean, oceanic island 'life-support systems', with a major interest on the quantification of allochthonous and autochthonous energy inputs to the top predators on the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands, studies in the twilight zone of the world ocean, particularly the community composition, life cycles and food web structure of macrozooplankton and micronekton within the mesopelagic realm of the North Pacific, the terrestrial-oceanic interface, with special emphasis on the importance of coastal dynamic frontal features in fish larval survival and the effects of watershed land practices and population densities on dynamics of brackish water and coastal marine ecosystems.
Microbes (including viruses, bacteria and phytoplankton) and their role in the marine ecosystem. The research spans scales from the characterization and genomic sequencing of unusual viruses from the sea to the causes of mortality in planktonic communities and its consequent effects on community structure and global biogeochemical cycles.
Marine phytoplankton, particularly dinoflagellates, as organisms. This involves investigations of different aspects of their biology, including their detailed structure (particularly scanning electron microscopy) feeding by non-photosynthetic forms, community composition of natural populations in temperate and tropical waters.
Interactions between marine microorganisms and the oceanic cycling of climatologically important trace gases. The main questions are: how do changes in oceanic CO2 levels affect marine primary productivity, and what is the role of key microbial metabolic pathways in driving the surface water concentrations of methane, nitrous oxide, and dimethylsulfide?