Lillian Lee

I am an undergraduate researcher at UCI and a student in the Earth System Science department. I study microscopic marine plants, known as phytoplankton, and their responses to different levels of copper and light. Copper is a nutrient phytoplankton need in small amounts but that can be toxic in large amounts. This area of research is significant since changing climate can affect ocean conditions and the amount of copper in the oceans surface where phytoplankton grow. Using laboratory data and experiments, I hope to better predict the way these organisms may react in the future oceans.


The specific phytoplankton type that I study are diazotrophs, which are organisms that convert inert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere to a form that can be used as a nutrient by phytoplankton. This process is vital to the marine ecosystem because nitrogen availability limits phytoplankton growth in much of the ocean. As such, my research has significant implications for marine food webs, so the response of diazotrophes to changing levels of copper and light has the potential to impact the rest of the ecosystem. My research is sponsored by the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).