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Aberystwyth marine scientist joins Arctic expedition

A marine biologists from Aberystwyth University joins an international study into the impact of climate change on the Arctic Ocean’s ecosystem which sets sail this week.

Dr David Wilcockson from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences is heading to the Barents Sea on board RRS James Clark Ross as part of the £16 million UK flagship research programme Changing Arctic Ocean, which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

During the month-long voyage, Dr Wilcockson will work with scientists from institutes across the UK, Norway and Germany to look at the effects of warming on the Arctic Ocean, from the surface of the ocean to the seafloor, as part of the Arctic PRIZE project.

Dr Wilcockson joins the mission as an expert on rhythmic behaviour in marine animals. His study will focus on plankton, tiny marine animals that underpin the food chain in the oceans.

Caught using specially adapted nets known as plankton trawls, Dr Wilcockson will study their daily migration in the water, when they are active and inactive, and how they respond to changes in light and temperature.

His findings will be added to scientific models that are being developed to predict how the ecology of the Arctic Ocean is likely to change.

Dr Wilcockson said:

“We know that warming of the oceans is making the ice retreat and that is having a knock on effect on the physical and chemical properties of the water, and that in turn we believe is affecting the ecology. Understanding how the plankton might respond to these changes will give us an idea of how this is likely to affect animals higher up the food chain, such as fish, seals and whales.”