SOCCO is a South African integrated science and innovation programme in support of the Department of Science and Innovation’s (DSI) Decadal and Strategic Plans. The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in both regional and global climate through its influence on global carbon and heat uptake and storage. SOCCO builds on South Africa’s comparative geographical advantage to improve long-term projections of the Southern Ocean carbon-climate system for informed adaptation planning and decision-making that will meet society’s urgent need for robust and actionable climate risk management. In so doing, SOCCO aims to strengthen South Africa’s impact as a global citizen with a clear commitment to ocean and climate stewardship.

Globe - About Socco

The SOCCO science, innovation and knowledge landscape: adding societal value and addressing national and international priorities. This figure highlights the international landscape within which SOCCO operates: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR), Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS), Global Carbon Project (GCP), Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), Surface Ocean CO₂ Atlas (SOCAT), Global Ocean Data Analysis Project (GLODAP) and Ocean metabolism and nutrient cycles on a changing planet - BIOGEOSCAPES. It similarly highlights the National strategies and plans that frame and inform the direction of our science and innovation strategy to achieve maximum societal impact, namely the: Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) Decadal plan and Strategic Plan 2020-2025, National Development Plan (NDP), South African Marine and Antarctic Research Strategy (MARS), Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), Antarctic and Southern Ocean Strategy (ASOS), South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE).

SOCCO is an interdisciplinary Earth System Science programme with a balance of strong domain depth and a capacity to jointly engage in ocean-climate science using a combination of expertise in both ocean observations and modelling. SOCCO, through its innovative approaches to tackle one of the most significant scientific challenges to date, understanding the central role of the Southern Ocean for climate, attracts many excellent young South Africans to produce a new generation of graduates (science and engineering) with the skills required to address the challenges of the 21st century. The SOCCO programme builds capabilities through earth science, big data, robotics, computer science and technical engineering which are all essential for the future digital world that requires a skilled and capable workforce for a knowledge based economy and knowledge society.

Dr Thomalla’s main research focus was on understanding the biological carbon pump through measurements of primary production (14C and 15N) and carbon export (234Th/238U disequilibrium) and interpreting these data in terms of their physical and biogeochemical control mechanisms. During her studies she participated in a number of national and international research programmes that include the Marion Island Oceanographic Survey (MIOS), the Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT), The Crozet Natural Iron Bloom and Export Experiment (CROZEX), the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP) Observatory, the IPY Bonus-Goodhope (BGH) and several South African National Antarctic Expeditions (SANAE).

On starting her post doc in 2008 at the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory (SOCCO) within the CSIR her research focussed shifted to characterising the seasonal cycle of chlorophyll in the Southern Ocean in order to provide a more dynamic understanding of ocean productivity based on underlying physical drivers rather than climatological biomass. In July 2011, she accepted a permanent position at the CSIR as a senior researcher. Her current and future research focuses on the development and application of ecosystem-appropriate, well-characterised products that will translate ocean colour into carbon biogeochemistry and allow new insight into Southern Ocean ecosystem function. A key focus will be in assessing event, seasonal and inter-annual variability in ecosystem physical drivers and their biogeochemical response in order to better understand the potential for carbon sequestration at a regional scale.

Dr Pedro MS Monteiro is a Chief Oceanographer at CSIR with a special interest in the understanding of how and why the ocean biogeochemistry of oxygen and carbon adjusts to climate variability. The use of numerical modelling as experimental platforms to understand scale sensitivities of coupled physics and biogeochemical processes in the Southern Ocean is a key focus.  This is being used to contribute to reducing uncertainty in long term evolution of the climate-carbon system in fully coupled Earth Systems models.

Current activities and research interests:

  • Understanding the coupled carbon-climate system in the Southern Ocean and the way that natural and anthropogenic CO2 fluxes in the Southern Ocean influence the long term trend of atmospheric CO2
  • Understanding and modelling the incidence and variability of oxygen in shelf and oceanic systems and their ecosystem implications
  • Modelling the biophysical processes which start and maintain phytoplankton new production in upwelling and open ocean systems

Thulisile Nkosi has obtained a postgraduate diploma in Project Management and currently studying towards an MMSc in Organizational Leadership. Her research or dissertation is on the relationship between project management maturity and project success.  She is in a process of writing an exam in Project Management Professional (PMP).

She has experience in quality assurance, specifically focusing on ISO 9001:2015 with a demonstrated history of working in the consulting engineering industry in the project management discipline.   She has strong interpersonal, communication, writing, and organizational skills.

Dr Thomas Ryan-Keogh’s main research focus is on understanding variable chlorophyll fluorescence under nutrient limitation and applying this to biogeochemical cycling of the oceans. During his PhD he participated on a number of multi-disciplinary research cruises to the high latitude North Atlantic and the Ross Sea. Dr Ryan-Keogh obtained his PhD in oceanography at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton/University of Southampton.

As part of SOCCO within CSIR his research will focus on understanding the seasonal cycle of phytoplankton physiology across the Southern Ocean, developing new tools and methods to examine the spatial and temporal variability of phytoplankton photophysiology for application to remote sensing data and biogeochemical model development. His research interests also include understanding how iron impacts the biological carbon pump and the effects of ocean acidification on phytoplankton physiology.

Since joining SOCCO in 2015 he has participated on 7 research cruises to the Southern Ocean, including the SCALE Spring cruise where he was the Chief Scientist. He has also helped to co-author 6 successful proposals as both principle investigator and co-principle investigator.

Researcher: Nicolette Chang is a researcher at the CSIR using numerical modelling to understand the physical oceanography of the surface ocean. She uses the ocean-ice-biogeochemical modelling platform NEMO for these purposes. Her duties include liasing with technical staff at the CHPC to get the ocean models up and running in parallel over numerous cores on their supercomputer. She also develops the model configurations for the research needs of SOCCO, these range from coarse global models to several high-resolution regional models in the South Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean at varying resolutions. The latter models are developed in collaboration with colleagues from Laboratorie de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’Environnement (LGGE) in Grenoble, France due to the SOCCLI project.

Dr Chang obtained a PhD in Physical Oceanography at the University of Cape Town funded by a UCT/CSIR bursary. In her dissertation, she used the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) to investigate the seasonal cycle over the Agulhas Bank and to investigate the formation of the Cool Ridge. The developed model was used as physical conditions for several fisheries-related studies.

Dr. Siyabulela Hamnca has a strong background in chemistry (physical and analytical chemistry). He completed his PhD in Chemistry at the University of the Western Cape specialising in electrochemistry (electrodynamics and electrochemical sensor development).

He joined in 2020 Southern Ocean Carbon & Climate Observatory (SOCCO) to run the oceanic carbon dioxide (CO2) chemistry laboratory. His work focuses on oceanic CO2 observations (DIC, AT, pH and pCO2) in the Southern Ocean region.

Dr Thulwaneng Mashifane is a Biogeochemical Model Developer at the Southern Ocean
Carbon and Climate Observatory (SOCCO) within the CSIR. His current research at SOCCO
aims to improve parameterisations of physiological processes for phytoplankton in coupled
physical-biogeochemical models. This involves using the coupled one to multi-dimensional
models configured on the Centre for High-Performance Computing (CHPC) to improve the
biogeochemical representation.

Dr Mashifane graduated with a PhD in Ocean and Atmosphere Science specialising in
Biogeochemical Modelling from the University of Cape Town. His thesis investigated shelf
biogeochemical interactions and feedback processes in the Benguela upwelling system. During
his PhD, he also participated in several research and training cruises in the Atlantic and Indian
ocean onboard the SA Agulhas II, R/V Meteor, R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen and R/V Maria S. Merian
gaining insightful observational skills which complement his modelling expertise.

I am an active researcher at CSIR and studying the physical and dynamical behaviour of the ocean, seasonal storm mixed layer dynamics, the role and importance of co 2 and heat fluxes for upper
ocean variability and about sea ice dynamics. In line with these works, I am also looking at ocean biogeochemical properties and ocean productivity. I am using the high resolution (2-3 km) coupled
ocean sea-ice biogeochemical model NEMO and MITgcm at high latitude for these purposes. I am also looking at the behaviour of the Southern Ocean in recent decades to understand its role in the ocean carbon
cycle, meridional overturning circulation and sea-ice variability.

I obtained my PhD in Atmospheric and Ocean Science at the University of Allahabad, India. During my PhD study, I used a high-resolution regional ocean sea ice and ice-shelf coupled model MITgcm to
explore the sea ice variability around Indian Antarctic stations and investigate the role of air-sea forcings on mixed layer heat budget in the sea ice zone.

Natasha van Horsten obtained a National Diploma in Analytical Chemistry in 2010 at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
She did her internship at CSIR in 2009 in the Analytical laboratory and was permanently employed in 2010. During her employment at CSIR in the Analytical laboratory, she completed her B.Tech in Chemistry at CPUT and graduated in 2013.
She joined the Southern Ocean Carbon – Climate Observatory (SOCCO) research group on an MSc studentship in 2013, under temporary employment at the CSIR. She undertook her MSc at Stellenbosch University, investigating the photosynthetic response of Southern Ocean phytoplankton under iron and light limitations, through bioassay experiments, graduating in 2015.
She completed her PhD in 2021, focused on early winter dissolved iron distributions and remineralisation in the southern Indian Ocean, which was done under a joint PhD agreement between Stellenbosch University, the University of Western Brittany (France) and SOCCO.
Natasha is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cape Town funded by the SOCCO research group and the National Research Foundation, focusing on trace metal biogeochemistry under the land mass effect from subantarctic islands.

Sifiso Mpapane is currently an MSc Oceanography student for the Southern Ocean Carbon & Climate Observatory (SOCCO), with a university affiliation to the University of Cape Town. He previously obtained his BSc degree in Geology, and honours in Physics at the University of Pretoria. His current research looks at the photophysiology, and inherent optical properties of Southern Ocean phytoplankton, for this purpose he makes use of in situ measurements, bio-optical modelling, and ocean colour satellite information.

Lillina is completing her MSc in biogeochemistry with SOCCO. Her research focuses on assessing uncertainties resulting from the use of various mathematical models used to derive rates of primary production by means of fast repetition rate fluorometry (FRRf), a chlorophyll fluorescence technique, and determining the dominant ecological drivers of variability in key photophysiological parameters. She is supervised by Dr Sandy Thomalla and Dr Thomas Ryan-Keogh. She obtained a Bachelor of Science Honours in Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town and joined SOCCO in 2021 as an MSc student intern.

Miranda Sitofile obtained a Bachelor of Science Honours in Chemistry from the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape. She joined SOCCO in 2021 as an MSc student intern. Her current project focuses on the seasonality of the physical speciation of dissolved iron and manganese. The main aim of this project is to address seasonal gaps in the literature by focusing on springtime distribution which will assist in adding to the understanding of seasonal iron and manganese biogeochemical cycles across a full seasonal cycle. In 2022, She will be participating in a GEAOTRACES summer school to be held in the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research as means of strengthening the knowledge background of trace elements.

Thapelo obtained his MSc in Analytical Chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2021. He then joined SOCCO as a PhD student intern in 2022. He focuses on the physical speciation of iron and manganese from land mass effects, in the vicinity of the Gough and Marion Islands. This is coupled with a 1D Box model which compares the land mass effects to open ocean environments. His research aims to feed into trace metal biogeochemical models by providing important observational data on the sources and sinks of trace metals from land mass effects. He has received expertise in hands-on training at the GEOTRACES summer school in Germany (2022) for sample analysis, interpretation, and modelling

Tesha is a PhD candidate from Mauritius working under the supervision of Dr Sarah-Anne Nicholson and Dr Pedro Monteiro. She is investigating the synoptic-scale coupled mixed layer and atmospheric dynamics of the carbon flux in the Southern Ocean using high-resolution Wave Gliders and regional numerical model output.

Tumelo Moalusi holds a BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics, followed by an Honours degree in Mathematical Science from North-West University. He subsequently pursued an MSc in Applied Ocean Science at the University of Cape Town, where his research focused on wind variability in the South Atlantic Sector of the Southern Ocean and its influence on the upper ocean within a numerical ocean model.

Currently, Tumelo leverages his expertise in both computer science and oceanography in his PhD research where he contributes to the development of Earth System Modelling capabilities in South Africa by conducting a performance review of Earth System Model (ESM) components at the Centre for High-Performance Computing (CHPC) cluster. This in-depth analysis helps optimize the model’s efficiency and accuracy in simulating complex Earth system interactions.

Zakiena has obtained an MSc in Mathematical Sciences from the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and UCT. Her background is in mathematics, physics, and recently machine learning.

She currently combines these disciplines in her Ph.D. which focuses on the exchange of carbon and heat flux which occurs between the atmosphere and the upper ocean. In particular, her research tries to elucidate the impact/relationship of atmospheric forcing on the mixed layer on a sub-grid scale level through numerical modelling and Machine Learning (ML). The domain of interest being the Southern Ocean (SO) as it is particularly important in driving large-scale heat and CO2 uptake.

Fortunate Shingange is a biochemistry graduate from the University of Pretoria, who also completed her honours degree at UP. She has always been passionate and fond of science, in its all broad aspects and fields. Hence when an opportunity in a different field (oceanography) presented itself, she grabbed with both hands because science is diverse and broad, not in any way limited. She joined the SOCCO group in 2019, as an intern and then pursued (currently) her Master’s degree at the University of Cape Town under the SOCCO group. Her current project focuses on iron (particularly soluble and colloidal fractions) biogeochemistry and cycling in the Southern Ocean. The project aims to address the gap in the literature about the seasonal cycling of iron in the Southern Ocean, by focusing on wintertime distribution. In 2019, she participated in both the winter and spring SCALE cruises. She collected water samples for analysis and quantification to assess the factors contributing to iron distribution in the Atlantic basin of the Southern Ocean.

Tebatso completed his BSc and BSc (Hons) at the University of Limpopo where he majored in Biochemistry, Microbiology & human Physiology. In 2015, he joined the CSIR (Biosciences, Pretoria) on an MSc scholarship where he completed his studies at the University of Pretoria. His research focus was on studying the pharmacology of phytochemicals of herbal medicinal plants (and concoctions) used traditionally in the treatment and management of a variety of ailments.

Tebatso joined SOCCO in 2019 on a PhD scholarship and is registered with the North-West University.
His PhD research focus is on phytoplankton (microscopic oceanic plants) and the metabolite they produce, Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP). DMSP plays a crucial role as a cryoprotectant in phytoplankton and has also been shown to support marine biogeochemical processes as a source of sulphur and carbon. Additionally, DMSP plays a role as a precursor of the climatically active dimethylsulphide (DMS) gas in the upper ocean. His research aims to improve our understanding of the links between phytoplankton, DMSP and the physical ocean. Understanding these links will inform the development of a remote sensing algorithm that uses satellite observations to derive DMSP
climatology in the northern Benguela upwelling system.

Asmita holds an MSc in Physics from the University of Pretoria, where she used ultrafast laser spectroscopy to study the excited state dynamics of protein-bound carotenoids in the Light-Harvesting Complex II of higher plants. Combining her background in Mathematics, Physics, Biophysics, Optics, and Photonics, her inter-disciplinary Ph.D. in Marine Biogeochemistry with the Earth Sciences department at Stellenbosch University, and in collaboration with the SOCCO-CSIR group, focuses on the photophysiological response of Atlantic Southern Ocean phytoplankton using variable chlorophyll fluorescence. This involves on-board, short-term incubation studies of phytoplankton with the addition of the Southern Ocean limited micronutrient, trace metal iron over different seasons (autumn, winter, and spring); as well as studying the in situ photophysiological response of Southern Ocean phytoplankton to various key physical and environmental drivers in summer in order to understand climate change effects and the effect on primary production.

Mutshutshu Tsanwani has obtained an MSc degree in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Pretoria. He is currently working for the Department of Environmental Affairs as a Chemical Oceanographer. His responsibilities include monitoring essential biogeochemical parameters such as nutrients, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a, DIC, TA, pH and pCO2 on the west coast of SA and the surrounding oceans. His main interest is in ocean acidification and the carbonate chemistry of seawater. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Cape Town. Mutshutshu’s PhD research investigates the combined effects of ocean acidification, hypoxia and temperature changes on marine coastal ecosystems and the impacts on selected marine organisms.

My academic background is in botany and currently I’m pursuing a career in marine biogeochemistry dealing with nutrient uptake (nitrogen cycle). Oceanography’s ability to link different science fields is interesting and exploring such knowledge is exciting. For the M.Sc. degree, I focused on nitrogen uptake by phytoplankton and nitrification in the South Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. In 2016 I had the privilege of spending a month at Princeton University to analyze nitrification samples, during the trip I learnt three analytical methods to determine nitrification (ammonium and nitrite oxidation) rates, this work was performed at Prof. Ward’s lab. I have started a PhD degree (2017), and for PhD. research I will look at the kinetics of nitrogen and this will be achieved by looking at substrate concentration uptake rates of ammonium (and nitrate in sub-tropical zones) and oxidation rates of ammonium and nitrite in the Southern Ocean. This work will help determine potential maximum uptake and oxidation rates of nitrogen in the Southern Ocean and this work can be useful to model climate prediction.

MSc Tumelo Moalusi. 2020 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Ayanda Npalweni. 2020 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Lebogang Matlakala. 2019 (CSIR / UCT)

PhD Sarah Nicholson. 2016 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Kevin Schmidt. 2016 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Senam Tsei. 2015 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Gilbert Ogunkula. 2014 (CSIR / UCT)

PhD Warren Joubert. 2014 (CSIR)

MSc Nicholas Pringle. 2014 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Fiona Preston-Whyte. 2013 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Katherine Hutchinson. 2013 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Delphine Lobelle. 2013 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Amy Weeber. 2012 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Luke Gregor. 2012 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Stephanie Rainier. 2012 (CSIR / UCT)

MSc Erika Kean. 2012 (CSIR/UCT)

MSc Michael-John Gibberd. 2011 (CSIR / UCT)

PhD Emma Bone (CSIR / UCT)

Emma’s PhD is focused on remotely sensed and in situ observations of fluorescence quantum yield (FQY) in the Southern Ocean. Fluorescence quantum yield is the ratio of photons emitted to those absorbed, serving as a measure of the photosynthetic efficiency of a phytoplankton population. This important biological parameter is influenced by numerous factors including taxonomy, light environment and nutrient status. Understanding the variability in signal through strategic in situ sampling will ultimately allow her to apply her findings to remotely sensed ocean colour data. In order to study FQY from space she will be using a fluorescence line height (FLH) product together with phytoplankton specific absorption determined using an inherent optical properties (IOP) inversion algorithm. She will attempt to attribute variation in the FQY signal to factors identified from her in situ studies. These relationships can be further investigated using the underlying IOP model, which can accommodate various characteristics of phytoplankton communities such as cell size and accessory pigment composition. Having an accurate understanding of the variables affecting FQY will allow her to confidently apply an FQY algorithm over a decadal time series, helping to characterise and better understand Southern Ocean phytoplankton dynamics.

PhD Marcel du Plessis (UCT / CSIR / WHOI)

Physical Oceanography PhD candidate interested in sub-mesoscale upper ocean physics. Current work using autonomous Seaglider in the Subantarctic Zone in combination with remotely sensed variables. Region of interest involves determining drivers that underly the environmental conditions whereby vertical stratification responds to sub-mesoscale mixed-layer eddies.

Localised sub-mesoscale mixed-layer eddies controlled by lateral buoyancy gradients and surface heating interact with atmospheric forcing mechanisms such as wind and heat to modify the stratification in the upper ocean.

PhD Precious Mongwe (CSIR / UCT)

Precious Mongwe is a PhD student in oceanography within the CSIR’s Global Change competence area, registered at the University of Cape Town. He obtained an MSc in Ocean and Climate dynamics from the University of Cape Town. Precious PhD is on the sensitivity of the seasonality of air-sea CO2 flux to fine-scale ocean physics in the Southern Ocean, particularly aims to investigate the impact of fine scales dynamics in simulating the seasonal cycle of the air-sea CO2 flux in the SO using coupled physical-biogeochemical models that are currently included in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) CMIP5 Eearth System Model (NEMO and PISCES), using fine-scale configurations up to 1/36o. The project mainly explore how/if representation of fine scale dynamics at a high-resolution model simulation improves representation and understanding of the seasonal cycle of air-sea CO2 fluxes and biological processes in comparison to observations, and subsequently to diagnose key fine scale mechanisms driving the seasonal cycle of CO2.

MSc Sandi Smart (UCT / Princeton University)

Sandi completed her undergraduate studies (BSc) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2010, majoring in Ocean & Atmosphere Science and Environmental & Geographical Sciences. In 2011, she obtained her Honours degree in Ocean & Atmosphere Science from UCT. Her Honours work explored the relationship between anomalously warm/cold sea surface temperature events in the northern Benguela region and rainfall variability over Southern Africa.

During 2012-13, Sandi undertook a collaborative Master’s project (based at UCT, in partnership with SOCCO and the Sigman Lab at Princeton University), investigating wintertime nitrate isotope dynamics in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. Surface and depth profile measurements of the nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) isotope ratios of nitrate (an important nutrient for phytoplankton growth) between Cape Town and the Antarctic winter sea-ice edge have provided a unique perspective on the biogeochemical and physical processes at work in the region south of Africa during winter. In future, Sandi hopes to extend her work in the modern ocean to paleoceanographic problems, such as defining the role played by Southern Ocean biology in regulating atmospheric CO2, and thus global climate, through past glacial/interglacial cycles.

MSc Ceinwen Smith (UCT)

Growing up in the mountains and oceans around Cape Town has fueled Ceinwen’s keen interest in the natural world and passion for surfing, hiking, climbing and photography. Her scientific interests include, ecology, botany, biodiversity and evolution in both the marine and terrestrial realms. She completed her honours in Oceanography and Environmental & Geographical Science in 2009 and attended a field biology camp at the University of Michigan in 2010, where she gained experience in freshwater algal taxonomy and awakened a curiosity for the microscopic world. Curiosity, enthusiasm and a keen eye for detail are qualities she believes are vital in pursuing a life in the natural sciences. Outside of her own research, she hopes to inspire these qualities in young scientists through field-based environmental education and outreach work.

Ceinwen’s recently submitted masters thesis explores the use of in situ bio-optical measurements of the ocean to investigate the dynamics of Southern Ocean phytoplankton community structure, physiology and primary production. The focus of her work is on the relationships between bio-optics, cell size, species dominance and physiology, which have implications for carbon export and provide insight into the role of the Southern Ocean’s biological carbon pump.

Dr. François Engelbrecht (CSIR)

Dr. Schalk Kok (UP)

Dr. Sonali Das (CSIR)

Derek Needham (STS)

Mutshutshu Tsanwani (DFFE)

Dr. Thato Mtshali (DFFE)

Senior Researcher: My research focusses on the roles of trace metal biogeochemistry, with particular interest of Iron (Fe), and light dynamics in the Southern Ocean primary productivity. My research interest is on understanding the effects of resource limitations of marine phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean. This research combines Fe speciation, analytical chemistry, and phytoplankton physiology and is approached from two directions: i) Field work measurements and ii) laboratory studies, with projects combining onboard bioassay Fe/light incubation bottle experiments coupled laboratory culture experiments and processed and distributions of Fe pools in seawater. I am always interested to hear from MSc and PhD students. If interested, send me a letter of research interest, CV and academic record.

Dr. Susanne Fietz (Stellenbosch University)

Susanne received her doctoral degree from Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany, investigating phytoplankton and what their pigments can tell about climate and state of the ecosystem in Lake Baikal, Siberia. Afterwards, in the UK, she got involved in polar ecosystem research studying biogeochemical alterations as survival strategy in sea ice microorganisms. In Spain, she combined the fields of biogeochemistry and polar ocean research into the use of molecular adaptation of aquatic microorganisms to understand causes and consequences of climate changes. Susanne joined Stellenbosch University as Senior Lecturer in 2013.

The group currently has an interesting project going on linked to the study of biogeochemical cycles in the Southern Ocean. Marine phytoplankton has been nominated as primary potential tool for climate mitigation. However, phytoplankton, which translates into carbon fixation and thus atmospheric CO2 reduction, depends on the availability of light and macro- and trace nutrients for growth and photosynthesis. Hence, research that leads to a better understanding of how phytoplankton responds to changes in light and nutrient availability is crucial. The projects are interdisciplinary including for example genetics and photophysiology, marine biogeo- and analytical chemistry and dust studies.

Dr. Warren Joubert (SAWS)

Researcher: Warren’s research is focussed on carbon cycling in the marine environment. His background is marine chemistry, and holds a M.Sc investigating carbon remineralisation in relation to sediment oxygen demand on the organic rich mud belt along the Namibian inner shelf. Warren recently completed his Ph.D in 2014, investigating surface ocean primary productivity in the Atlantic Southern Ocean, using a variety of in situ observation techniques. These include radiolabelled nitrogen tracer experiments for the uptake of nitrogen by phytoplankton, and net community productivity (NCP) using underway Equilibrator Inlet Mass Spectrometry to investigate the role of drivers such as nutrient- and light availability in explaining the observed primary productivity and NCP. Recent work highlighted the importance of variability in the mixed layer depth (which sets the surface irradiance and nutrient) in driving the variability in NCP, particularly in the Sub-Antarctic Zone.

Currently, Warren is responsible for ship based observations of ocean carbon parameters (pCO2, Total Alkalinty, Dissolved Inorganic Carbon) to establish a long-term ocean CO2 inventory in the African sector of the Southern Ocean. These measurements will assist in constraining interannual variability and contribute to global estimates atmosphere-ocean CO2 flux estimates.

Ass. Prof. Craig Lee (University of Washington)

Dr. Alessandro Tagliabue (University of Liverpool)

Prof. Danny Sigman (Princeton University)

Prof. Amala Mahadevan (WHOI)

Prof. Michael Bender (Princeton University)

Dr. Richard Bellerby (NIVA)

Dr. Phoebe Lam (Princeton University)

Dr. Steven Herbette (UBO)

Dr. Christoph Heinze (UiB)

Dr. Christopher Sabine (NOAA-PMEL)

Dr. Marie-Fanny Racault (PML)

Dr. Seb Swart (University of Gothenburg)

Senior Scientist: Dr Swart is a physical oceanographer who specializes in both satellite and in situ observations in the Southern Ocean. He is currently a Senior Scientist at CSIR in Cape Town and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cape Town. He completed his PhD in 2009 at UCT with extensive collaboration at the Laboratoire de Physique des Oceans, University of Brittany, France. He has been actively involved in Southern Ocean research since 2004 and is an experienced sea-going oceanographer after participating in 12 research cruises of which he was Chief Scientist on four of them to the Antarctic. His primary scientific interests involve large-scale open ocean circulation and dynamics as well as smaller scale ocean mixing processes and relating their impact on biogeochemistry and the oceanic carbon cycle.

Over the past four years, Dr Swart has been heavily involved in implementing a new national engineering facility on robotic ocean gliders in South Africa. These innovative instruments greatly enhance observational efforts in the Southern Ocean and boost national R&D activities. They provide a safe and cost effective means to observe the ocean at fine temporal and spatial scales over extended periods of the year, previously not possible using research ships alone. Within the community, Dr Swart provides leadership through service on international science steering committees, including his role as the Physics Vice-Chair of the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS). Dr Swart supports and advises masters and doctoral students and lectures graduate level courses on Southern Ocean dynamics and experimental design.

Dr. William Moutier (CSIR / UCT)

Dr William Moutier received his Phd in physical oceanography from the University of the Littoral Côte d’Opal (ULCO) at the laboratory of oceanology and geosciences in France. His main research focus was on understanding the impact of phytoplankton heterogeneities on their inherent optical properties and to understand the variability around bio-optical models. During his Phd he combined biogeochemical and cytometric measurements with radiative transfer simulations to analyse the evolution of phytoplankton optical properties at different growth stages linked to their morphological and intra-cellular variations.

On starting his post doc at SOCCO he participated on the ACE expedition where he spent 3 months circumnavigating Antarctica. As part of his postdoctoral research his focus is on the development of new bio-optical algorithms specific to the Southern Ocean that better characterise the phytoplankton population using IOP’s with respect to particle concentration, size, carbon content and functional type.

National strategic partners are a key part of the strength of SOCCO. These partnerships are of mutual benefit and long lasting and allow us to grow both our science reach and human capacity to address the broad objectives of our integrated science and innovation strategy.

SOCCO puts a lot of consideration, planning and energy into initiating and strengthening strategic international partnerships in order to build our access to skills through training and collaboration, particularly in areas that are outside of SOCCO’s immediate expertise. The newly acquired skills gained from these collaborations adds knowledge and expertise to the South African scientific community. At the same time, these strategic partnerships build national and international exposure of the world-leading capability for Southern Ocean carbon-climate research emanating from South Africa.

SOCCO researchers have a well established impact in international ocean – climate science leadership bodies contributing scientists, science, data and data based products to many international initiatives. SOCCO is also active in the realm of ‘science diplomacy’, which is critical in a world where there is renewed interest in the role of the oceans in global climate.


Team Member International Panel
Dr. Pedro Monteiro (CSIR) Science Steering Group – Clivar – 3 terms
Joint Steering Committee JCS WCRP World Climate Research Programme
Coordinating Lead Author IPCC – AR6 – WG1 Chapter 5: Carbon and Biological Feedbacks
Lead Author: IPCC AR6 WG1 Summary for Policymakers
Contributing Author: IPCC Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere under Climate change (SROCC)
Working Group for the Development of the strategy for the new Carbon feedbacks in the Climate System – Grand Challenge of the WCRP
Invited member – Aspen Institute Panel to formulate a code of conduct for ocean CDR
Dr Sandy Thomalla Member of South African National Committee for SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research)
Member of Biogeochemical Argo (BGC-Argo) steering committee
Co-chair of the Weddell Sea-Dronning Maud Land (WS-DML) Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) Regional Working Group
Full member of Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) Working Group P-OBS, Integration of Plankton-Observing Sensor Systems to existing Global Sampling Programmes
Full member of SCOR Working Group – Active Chlorophyll fluorescence for autonomous measurements of global marine primary productivity
Full member of SCOR Working Group TOMCAT (Translation of Optical Measurements into Particle Content, Aggregation & Transfer)
External Advisory Board for COMICS (Controls over Ocean Mesopelagic Interior Carbon Storage) a large collaborative research project funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) (2017 – 2022) led by the National Oceanography Centre, UK
Dr Sarah Nicholson Associate member of SCOR Working Group: “Analysing ocean turbulence observations to quantify mixing (ATOMIX)
Co-chair of Climate and Ocean – Variability, Predictability and Change (CLIVAR) Ocean Model Development Panel (OMDP)
Dr Thomas Ryan-Keogh Associate member of SCOR Working Group – Active Chlorophyll fluorescence for autonomous measurements of global marine primary productivity
National Chair of the South African Association of Polar Early Career Scientists