The ocean is full of large (millimeter to centimeter) particles, like marine snow and microplastic fragments. We study the transport of these particles and the fluid dynamical processes that characterize their relationship to the environment.
Marine snow is made up of organic material like phytoplankton, fish faecal pellets, and extruded waste products from marine bacteria. and zooplankton. The continuous shower of marine snow provides food for midwater animals, and also forms a nontrivial carbon export from the surface ocean. We’re interested in quantifying the settling rates of marine snow aggregates under turbulent conditions, which will help define an important parameter in the ocean’s carbon cycle (and our models of climate change).
Microplastic particles are more and more common in our increasingly polluted oceans. We want to know how ocean currents and turbulence might be causing these particles to preferentially concentrate in certain areas, and how turbulent stresses might contribute to their erosion and fracture.