Giannina Hattich studies phytoplankton. These microscopically small photosynthesizing unicellular organisms produce half of the world’s oxygen and are the basis of marine food webs.
Giannina Hattich, you work as a Post-doctoral researcher in marine biology, within the profiling area The Sea. Could you please describe your focus of research?
“My research is concerned with understanding how ecological and evolutionary processes jointly determine the composition and functioning in phytoplankton communities of the future.
Phytoplankton are microscopically small photosynthesizing unicellular organisms. They produce half of the world’s oxygen and are the basis of marine food webs. Their habitat, the oceanic ecosystem, is rapidly moving into a new human-mediated geological epoch – the Anthropocene.
A likely consequence is a major shift in phytoplankton communities across the global ocean, subsequently affecting the entire marine food web. These shifts are driven by ecological and evolutionary processes that can interact and jointly affect communities.
Opposing the original belief that evolutionary processes are slow and happen only over long timespans, it was shown lately that genetic diversity can shift within a few generations, leading to rapid adaptation of populations to new environmental conditions, and shifted interactions with ecology.
Rapid evolution is especially relevant in phytoplankton with following properties: short generation times (many species divide once a day and thus turn from being a child to being grandparents in three days), big population size and high standing genetic diversity.
Consequently, it is essential to understand how relatively important evolution is and how it can interact with ecological processes, to allow more reliable and precise predictions of future phytoplankton community changes.
During my time at ÅAU, I aim to step away from very controlled laboratory experiments. Together with my colleague Conny Sjöqvist, I aim to access eco-evolutionary processes in natural communities of the Baltic Sea.”
The Sea is a current target of donations at Åbo Akademi University.