Priming the ocean’s carbon pump

Senior Sustainability Scientist Susanne NeuerWhen it comes to climate change and carbon reduction, Senior Sustainability Scientist Susanne Neuer is thinking small — extremely small. The Arizona State University biological oceanographer is an expert on marine phytoplankton, microscopic algae found in the sunlit zone of waters all over the globe. As Neuer is quick to point out, phytoplankton may be small — too small individually to be seen with the naked eye — but they are mighty. Their size belies their critical importance to the biological carbon pump, the primary biological mechanism in the ocean’s absorption of vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “The oceans take up a quarter to a third of all CO2 emissions,” she said. “Phytoplankton are one of the key players for how that works.” As CO2 emissions have soared, the ocean’s role as a carbon lockbox has become ever more critical. Neuer’s research examines how different types of phytoplankton prime the ocean’s biological carbon pump — and how climate change might affect their ability to keep the pump running. Read more about Neuer's research on ASU Now.