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Exploring plankton biodiversity: Insights from Fabio, Marine Scientist and ESR in AtlantECO

Fabio Benedetti, plankton enthusiast and aspiring deep ocean explorer

In the AtlantECO podcast, we are starting a new series looking at the Early Stage Researchers in AtlantECO. Our guest in the first episode of this series is Fabio Benedetti, marine scientist specialising in plankton biodiversity and its role in ecosystem functioning and climate regulation.

Fabio, who is based at ETH Zurich, explains that his fascination lies in studying the small creatures in the ocean, particularly plankton. He has been researching plankton diversity for a decade, focusing on understanding their distribution, patterns, and their future trajectory. Fabio's research falls within the field of macroecology and biogeography, where he maps the biodiversity of plankton. By analysing observational data collected over the years using data mining and machine learning tools, he extracts hidden information and maps indicators of plankton diversity in space and time. He emphasises the importance of combining disparate datasets to gain new insights that might have been missed when working with individual datasets. Fabio's work contributes to a better understanding of the biodiversity and ecological dynamics of plankton in the ocean. His research helps uncover valuable information about the distribution and characteristics of these vital organisms, ultimately aiding in the conservation and protection of marine ecosystems.

A beautiful example of copepod, one of the organisms Fabio studies ©Maéva Bardy - Fondation Tara Ocean

Within AtlantECO, Fabio’s main role is to aggregate and curate plankton observation data from various sources. This data includes information on different plankton species, their diversity, and productivity. By bringing together diverse datasets, the aim is to create a comprehensive understanding of plankton biodiversity in the Atlantic Ocean. The aggregated data is then made available to the scientific community for further research and analysis. In collaboration with colleagues in the project, Fabio also develops statistical pipelines and mapping packages to extract valuable information from the aggregated data. By generating maps of plankton biodiversity and productivity, scientists can identify global patterns and study interactions between different plankton species. These maps serve as a foundation for developing indicators to monitor and predict the response of plankton to future changes in climate variables. With ongoing climate change and rising anthropogenic CO2 emissions, understanding how plankton biodiversity and production will respond to these changes is crucial.

Fabio's typical work station, a combination of good food and science

In addition to his data aggregation and mapping activities, Fabio also supervises early-stage researchers, explaining his passion for mentoring future ocean scientists and his desire to find a permanent position in academia or a related field where he can continue to support and inspire young researchers. Fabio also offers advice to those starting their careers in marine sciences, so make sure to listen to the full episode to benefit from his wisdom!

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