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Public Lecture: Joint 'Year of Carbon' and 'International Year of the Periodic Table' lecture with the Royal Society of Chemistry

16 October 2019
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Geological Society Events, 2019 Year of Carbon
The Geological Society, Burlington House
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What made the ocean turn red 200 million years ago?

In the middle of the Phanerozoic, there was a Marine revolution and a fundamental irreversible shift to the function of the ocean carbon cycle. From the mid Jurassic onwards, the ocean, previously dominated by green lineage algae, was taken over by the chlorophyll a+c containing phytoplankton of the haptophytes (e.g. coccolithophores) and heterokont (e.g. diatom) lineages, whose plastids are derived from red algae (Rhodophyta). 

In each case the larger cell sizes of the phytoplankton and the addition of mineralising skeletons, added power to the biological pump of carbon and nutrients from the surface ocean to the deep, with ramifications throughout the ecosystem. 

I will explore the role of changing ocean chemistry, and in particular how altered availability of metal requirements and availability may have moulded and fuelled this carbon revolution.


Ros Rickaby, University of Oxford

Ros is Professor of Biogeochemistry in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, having received her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1995 and studied at Harvard for her post-doc with Dan Schrag. The goal of Ros' research is to develop ways to reconstruct and understand the co-evolution of life and Earth’s climate.   

She has blended biology and chemistry to tackle questions of past climates, evolution, and the future of the phytoplankton. Ros’ distinctive approach is to read geological history from signals of adaptation within genes of modern organisms, which play out in the evolving affinity and kinetics of the expressed enzymes, or isotopic signals of adaptation that leave a footprint in fossils and biomolecules. 

Ros has authored over 90 papers and co-authored a book “Evolution’s Destiny: Co-evolving chemistry of the environment and life”. 

In 2008 Ros received the European Geosciences Union’s Outstanding Young Scientist award and in 2010 the American Geophysical Union’s James B. Macelwane Award for significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist. She currently holds a Wolfson Research Merit Award from the Royal Society.

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