Demetra Yancopoulos ’22


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Title

Zinc Chemistry in Oceans

Presentation Link

View Demetra's Presentation

Certificate(s): Sustainable Energy

Biological activity in the Southern Ocean directly impacts the global ocean and atmosphere. In nutrient-rich waters, marine biota are typically able to grow at high rates and, in the process, fix loads of atmospheric carbon. In the Southern Ocean, however, biological productivity is relatively low despite high concentrations of major nutrients. This has previously been explained by exceedingly low concentrations of bioavailable iron, an essential trace nutrient. My research focused on zinc, a less explored trace metal in the Southern Ocean. Like iron, zinc is an essential trace nutrient for marine biota. We inquired whether there is enough zinc — and enough bioavailable zinc — to meet the nutrient requirements of marine biota. To answer these questions, I investigated the distribution and speciation of zinc in seawater. I conducted thermodynamic modeling of zinc speciation using realistic estimates of seawater parameters to determine which zinc minerals have the potential to precipitate in different marine conditions. This information can help us refine a schematic for the biogeochemical cycling of zinc in the Southern Ocean, which directly influences large-scale ocean and atmosphere dynamics.

Internship Year


Project Category

Climate and Environmental Science


Molecular Environmental Geochemistry Group, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University


Satish Myneni, Professor of Geosciences; Jianshu Duan, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences; Kewei Zhao, Ph.D. candidate, Chemistry