Meet the Researcher: Carolin Peter
Meet the Researcher: Introducing Carolin Peter
This April, Carolin Peter joins us from her home in Germany to begin her PhD research in MPEA. A self-described lover of cold weather, “the colder and darker it is, the better I feel!” Carolin looks forward to her research on the effects of climate change on various phytoplankton species and the community composition here at Lnu. With three published papers already under her belt, Carolin will head to Kalmar next month. Below, an interview with Carolin Peter.
What is your background as a marine biologist and researcher?
I did my bachelor’s thesis working with algae – harmful dinoflagellates off the coast of Sweden, actually! And with my Master’s agree I specialized in Marine Biology, and again my focus was plankton. I am really, really interested in plankton. Any chance I got, I chose plankton over something like fish, for example.
I did my master’s thesis on the interactions between Caribbean sponges and their microalgal symbionts. My supervisor was a chemist, and he had found out that the substance which is presumably produced by the sponge converts light from the UV range to the range that is usable for microalgae. We wondered about the purpose of this, because it’s a rather energy-consuming process, and we thought, “Well! They have so little light down there, it might be to help the symbiotic algae produce more oxygen or more sugars.”
So that’s what I focused on. I had 9 different kinds of microalgae, which I exposed to a chemically synthesized version of that sponge-derived substance and checked the oxygen evolution using optodes to see whether the oxygen evolution would increase, and whether that depends on the light conditions. We assumed that the more light you offer, the less important the additional photons provided by the sponge molecule become, so we assumed that the effect would be greatest at lowest light conditions and then decrease with light intensity.
Fascinating! And what will be your research focus when you come to Lnu?
I will be looking at the impact of climate change on phytoplankton communities. Specifically, higher light conditions and higher temperatures. What we know so far is that these changes should favor smaller plankton, but the larger plankton species sometimes are better at taking up nutrients and due to lower nutrient availability caused by a decrease in mixing as a result of climate change, it might also be that the larger ones are favored. So that will be my focus. I will analyze the LMO data series to check how the composition of the phytoplankton changed seasonally and over time, and I will also do mesocosms and laboratory experiments to determine, for example, the nutrient uptake in typical small-scale and large-scale phytoplankton species for comparison.
What do you most look forward to about living and working in Sweden?
Regarding working in Sweden, specifically, the colder climate. I had my childhood in southern parts of Germany, then went north to Bremen for university, and now I am slowly moving farther up north!
At this rate, you may end up in the Arctic!
I was in the Arctic, actually! I was taking a course on phytoplankton in the arctic, analysing phytoplankton and zooplankton samples and compared the composition between areas that had been free of ice for some time and others that had been underneath the ice.
It seems your areas of interest really involve communities and interactions among the species.
Absolutely. I love the interactions between the species. While I feel it’s important to perform laboratory experiments where you focus only on one species to be able to really understand what they are capable of, I feel like the more realistic approach is to focus on the whole community and see how things are actually out in the world. That has at least been my perspective thus far.
Carolin, we are really excited for you to join our research group, and the LNU community. Welcome!
-Caroline Littlefield & Carolin Peter