Patricia Haigh

I am pursuing a B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy and a B.S. in Earth System Science, with a concentration in Atmospheric Science, and a minor in Global Sustainability. I believe that research in all sectors of the Earth System is important in understanding how our planet respond to the anthropocene. My research looks at how  phytoplankton, the base of the marine food web, are impacted by human activities.


My current research project focuses on how ship emissions will affect marine phytoplankton growth in our oceans. Phytoplankton are major primary producers in marine ecosystems so changes to natural levels of nutrient supply in the sea can cause imbalances in food chains and ultimately affect fisheries. In long time scales, these changes can also affect carbon sequestration rates and global climate. Ship emissions are more saturated on the coast due to predominant coastal shipping routes, which already has an abundance of nutrients due to desert dust and upwelling, and due to anthropogenic sources, such as runoff pollution and urban air pollution. On the other hand, in areas around the center of ocean gyres, natural sources of nutrients are limited. We, therefore, hypothesize that ship emissions will cause negligible to negative phytoplankton growth in coastal eutrophic marine biomes, but a positive effect in oligotrophic marine biomes, and variable effects on sensitive or remote ocean areas like the Arctic Ocean. I am working with Joana Tavares to analyze how samples of open ocean phytoplankton and atmospheric samples of ship emissions will interact. My research is supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP).