Alex Dominguez ’16


Chemical and Biological Engineering

Project Title

Triggering of Phytoplankton Bloom Onset in the Southern Ocean

Presentation Link

View Alex's Presentation

There are currently multiple hypotheses which explain the biological-physical mechanisms that lead to the onset of the spring phytoplankton bloom. New in situ bio-optical data from Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) floats can provide insight into the mechanisms that trigger phytoplankton blooms in the spring. These floats take measurements of chlorophyll and other characteristics through depth and time. By comparing changes in chlorophyll to changes in physical drivers such as mixed-layer depth (MLD) and surface heat fluxes, I was able to gain a better understanding of how and why blooms happen. Our preliminary results show that there is a strong relationship between phytoplankton growth, heat flux, and a shoaling MLD. These initial results begin to suggest that current hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. I am still working on this project and hope to publish a paper by the end of the year. Through this internship, I gained a greater understanding of the complexities of the oceans. Additionally, I was able to master MATLAB so I could parse through the data quickly. It was an amazing summer and oceanography is a field I could envision pursuing in the future.

Internship Year


Project Category

Climate Change and Environmental Science


Sarmiento Group, Geosciences Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ


Jorge Sarmiento, Professor, Geosciences