Research Fellows Directory
Dr FENGJIE LIU
Imperial College London
Broadly speaking, I aim to understand the underlying mechanisms of the interactions between contaminants/pollutants such as trace metals of environmental concern and aquatic organisms, as well as the chemical and biological processes that control the transformations, ecological effects, and cycling of these contaminants in aquatic ecosystems.
My research activities have focused principally on the interactions between trace metals and aquatic organisms in both marine and freshwater environments. I intend to address such questions as: What are the chemical forms/species of these contaminants in natural waters? Which of the chemical species are bioavailable and toxic to aquatic organisms? How do environmental and biological variables affect the bioavailability and toxicity of these contaminants? How do aquatic organisms handle the contaminants in their bodies (particular the underlying molecular mechanisms)? How do aquatic organisms affect contaminant cycling in ambient waters? To what extent can aquatic communities mitigate the adverse effects of these contaminants? A central goal is to contribute to the development of rational standards and criteria for best protecting aquatic ecosystems in rapidly changing environments.
At the present time, my specific interest is the metal speciation in the boundary layer just nearby algal cell surface. In brief, human activities have been identified as significant causes of recent increases in atmospheric CO2 and global climate change, and phytoplankton has been shown to be the dominant driver in the fixation of CO2 on Earth. Growth of phytoplankton is largely influenced by trace metals, and small amounts of them can trigger large phytoplankton blooms and thus affect the global carbon cycle. We are trying to better understand how phytoplankton take up trace metals, and better predict the consequences of global climate change on trace metal bioavailability and cycling. In particularly, we are examining the chemistry of trace metals in the microenvironment near algal cells. Significant chemical changes of trace metal speciation in this tiny space would affect the uptake of trace metals by phytoplankton and consequently affect their growth. Our research will provide new knowledge to help us restore balanced global carbon cycling.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)