The human-ocean system

Humans have become the major driver of change within the climate, marine ecosystem, and terrestrial ecosystem of our planet. Yet, most conceptual and scientific frameworks consider humans as an exogenous force, rather than as an integral part of the Earth system.

The overarching goal of the BIGSEA Project is to develop new quantitative methods for including human activity as a directly-coupled component of Earth system models. The global ocean is an ideal testbed for this approach, given the relatively simple nature of human activity in the ocean, and rapid developments in simulating the marine ecosystem from ocean physics.

The BIGSEA Project will assemble a team of trans-disciplinary expertise, led by ICREA research professor Eric Galbraith in Barcelona, in order to develop a unified, data-constrained, grid-based modeling framework to represent the most important interactions of the global human-ocean system. The work will explore new ways to represent human activity, well-being, and societal behaviour within a physically-based structure.

By considering the human-ocean system from this vantage point, some key questions emerge. These include:

  • How can human experience, quantified on an individual, per-hour basis, be related to fishing activity in a simple, data-constrained way?
  • What are the fundamental interactions between industrial and artisanal fisheries in a spatially-resolved model that considers technological change, and how can these be linked to societal metrics?
  • How can interactions between the ecosystem and small-scale circulation features be represented in global-scale models?
  • How do animals influence the sinking flux of organic particles, and what does this mean for oxygen minimum zones, nutrient recycling and nutrient stoichiometry?
  • Has ocean biogeochemistry been altered by the restructuring of marine ecosystems caused by fishing?

Within the overall framework of the project, team members will have the freedom to pursue cutting-edge questions that are well-aligned with their own interests and expertise.

New PhD and Postdoc fellowships will be available in 2017!