Research Fellows Directory
Dr Samantha Gibbs
University of Southampton
My research combines the geological record of microscopic plankton with how and where modern plankton live today to try and understand the impact of past, current and future climate change. Specifically, I’m focusing on what might happen in the future to marine organisms with calcium carbonate skeletons. This is because increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are likely to contribute not only to global warming but to increasing the acidity of the world's oceans. A large number of marine organisms could be damaged by this increased acidity, including calcareous plankton. If these organisms were severely affected then not only would the marine food-chain be disrupted but also the rain of calcium carbonate skeletons from surface waters to the deep ocean, altering chemical cycles in the ocean and further influencing global climate. Currently, most hypotheses as to how organisms might respond to increased CO2 are based on evidence from experiments in which plankton are grown in laboratories. However, what we also need to know is how ecosystems, as well as individual species, will respond over the timescales of climate change, i.e., over decades to millennia. In this context, the geological archive can provide us with examples of past times when the oceans were acidified. My research therefore utilises the fossil record by examining the cumulative biotic outcome of climate change events, including macro- and micro-evolutionary patterns and local and regional-scale migrations. Coupled with increasingly more sophisticated techniques for documenting changes in species composition, geochemistry, and morphometry, I am also using microfossils as sensitive proxies for reconstructing environmental change. Ultimately, my goal is to determine what information we can gain from the fossil record of plankton that can help us understand what is happening and what will happen to our current plankton ecosystem.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)