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The BBC BluePlanet

Newly discovered ocean plankton named after BBC Blue Planet.

Although measuring only thousandths of a millimetre, these plankton play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems as a crucial source of food for many ocean dwelling organisms. They are also incredibly valuable for studying the impact of climate change on ocean life now and across the previous 220 million years.
The plankton – called coccolithophores – are single cells surrounded by a calcite shell that varies drastically in shape across different species, acting as armour against predators.
“Although microscopic, the plankton are so abundant that they are visible from space as swirling blooms in the surface oceans, and form our most iconic rocks with their calcite forms making up the bulk of the white chalk cliffs and downs of southern England,” explained study co-author Professor Paul Bown.
It is the ability to produce this calcite shell that is being disrupted through ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a symptom of climate change whereby rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.
By studying fossilised plankton shells or ‘coccoliths’ in samples from drilling down deep into the ocean bed, scientists can map the impact of climate change and other global events over a very long period of time and use this to inform what might happen to in the future.

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KLB Supergraphics

New department, new Head of Department

I will be taking over as Head of Department from Prof Lars Stixrude in July. While Lars will remain in charge during the next few months, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his efforts on behalf of this department. In particular, Lars and John Bowles (with the support of our Space Committee) have done a fantastic job of guiding this department through the difficult process of building renovation. Some of us moved into the finished west wing of the Kathleen Lonsdale Building last year, but it was not until January this year that the east wing was finished and we essentially came together as a united department in a single building. The east wing is particularly important to us because it contains our new teaching labs, with a combined capacity of around 90 people. More...

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Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory



Experimental & theoretical rock physics, ice mechanics & petrologyapplied to planetary dynamics, geohazards, sub-surface reservoirs & ice sheets

The Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory (RIPL) at UCL is a major research facility which forms part of the Earth Sciences Department. RIPL has over 15 members and consists of 11 laboratories, housing over £4M of research equipment., supported by over £2 million of current peer-reviewed funding. The Rock & Ice Physics Laboratory has a unique breadth of experience and ability to design and build its own experimental apparatus.

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We study the physical behaviour of ice and rocks that make up the surface and interior of the Earth, and other solid bodies in the solar system, so as to constrain the dynamic, tectonic and environmental processes of planetary evolution. Our research is nationally unique and multi-disciplinary, being based on experiment and theory.