2009 Lynchpin Scholar – Suellen Cook

thesis write up support

Suellen Cook

Thesis title

Ecophysiological, morphological and genetic differences between two Southern Ocean morphotypes of the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi.

This research identified a new Souther Ocean phytoplankton strain: Emiliania huxleyi var. aurorae S. S. Cook et Hallegr. var. nov.

Summary of research

The research characterised the degree of genetic differentiation, pigment content and light handling capacities using microsatellites, HPLC and PAM fluorometry. The differences revealed between morphotypes reflect an adaptive divergence of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current constrained morphotype B/C warranting recognition of its unique contribution to global carbon cycling.



Plate 1: Emiliania huxleyi var.aurorae. Isolated by Suellen S Cook Feb 2007

The results presented in this research have major ramifications for field monitoring using pigment analysis to construct phytoplankton community composition data. This research, building on Medlin et al.’s (1996) proposal to formally elevate three E. huxleyi morpho- types to variety status, namely, var. huxleyi (type A), var. pujosae (type B), and var. kleijniae (type C) (Table 1), added a formal description of the morphologically, ecophysiologically, and genetically distinct Southern Ocean morphotype B ⁄ C (sensu Young et al. 2003), to be raised to variety status as var. aurorae: formally: Emiliania huxleyi var. aurorae S. S. Cook et Hallegr. var. nov.

Plate 2: Emiliania huxleyi Type A Culture strain EHSO 5.25

Findings published in

J. Phycol. 47, 615–626 (2011) Ó 2011 Phycological Society of America DOI: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2011.00992.x

Bookend Acid Seas and Lost Hollows documentary featuring the work of Suellen Cook is available for schools and community groups. Viewings can be arranged by contacting info@bookendtrust.com



Understand something of the significance of phytoplankton in supporting life on the planet and hear Suellen talk about  her research:


Go to the NASA Earth Observatory to find Coccolithophores 2010 : learn What is a Coccolithophore? Where do they live? and find related case studies.

The Southern Ocean Acidification Report Card from the the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems CRC Ocean Acidification 101 available as pdf.


Artist Link: Sue Anderson see Site Credits

Contemplating the Anthropocene,  © SJ Anderson

The concept of the Anthropocene puts climate change into a broader, geological context and brings into question our long-term well-being and the viability of our societies… This is the critical decade. We can still influence the course of the Anthropocene. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience.

Prof Will Steffen
Exec Dir Climate Change Institute ANU
Independent Climate Commission
Prev. Sc Adviser Aus Dept Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.