In from the cold: how are winter plankton communities changing with the climate?
Lake ecosystems host diverse communities of organisms which show great variation over seasonal, year-to-year and decadal timescales. Growing evidence demonstrates that these communities are already being impacted by climate change, but much existing research has focused on the ecology of spring and summer communities, with winter communities receiving less attention. We know that winters are becoming milder and so it is important to understand how winter communities are changing, as these changes may “carry over” into subsequent seasons and have lasting effects. Focusing on ecologically-important lake plankton communities, this project will address this knowledge gap, combining:
1) Review of the current state-of-the-art in climate change research focused on lake ecosystems in winter
2) Combined microscopic and image analysis of the abundance, diversity and size structure of functionally-important zooplankton consumers using samples from the field and large outdoor experimental systems.
3) Extending these analyses to a global extent using data from a network of lakes, provided through international collaboration.
4) Targeted investigation, using stable isotope analysis, of changing structural properties of winter planktonic food webs in response to environmental change.
You will work with a team of experts based at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Lancaster University, co-located within the Lancaster Environment Centre. Fieldwork will be conducted in the English Lake District; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the project you will become expert in the analysis of long-term data, image analysis of biological samples, and stable isotope analysis, with opportunities to communicate your science to other researchers and the wider public.