Nairi Sevajian

I am an undergraduate researcher in the Earth System Science department, and I am interested in the interactions between marine environments and the atmosphere. My research is focused on the measurement of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by microscopic marine plants, or phytoplankton. VOCs are organic chemicals that turn into vapor easily and are especially important as they can influence atmospheric chemistry. Though we regularly encounter VOCs released by trees and other terrestrial plants from the smell of freshly cut grass or from the sharp scent of pine needles, not much is known about VOCs emitted by phytoplankton. Phytoplankton cover much of the surface of our oceans, therefore it is important to identify their  VOC emissions to analyze whether there are implications for climate forcing. 


In the preliminary experiment, I monitored the growth curve and emission profiles of triplicate samples of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus, collected over five different days. The results suggest the presence of 2-methyl propene in the first sample of each culture. Future trials will include methodological improvements of the experiment. I hope to answer whether volatile emission profiles differ between phytoplankton types and if the emissions exhibit dependence on environmental parameters, such as temperature or light.