Royal Society’s Summer Science 2021: How can we track and trace carbon from space?

Scientists from the BICEP project will be showing how we can use satellites to study the global carbon cycle during the Royal Society’s Summer Science 2021, which will be going totally digital from 8th to 11th July.

Dr Gemma Kulk and Dr Shubha Sathyendranath will be showcasing their research on phytoplankton – part of the European Space Agency’s ‘Biological Pump and Carbon Exchange Processes (BICEP) project’.

Antartic diatoms

Image: Diatoms from the Antarctic

Phytoplankton play an important role by cycling a huge amount of carbon through the marine ecosystem. As primary producers, they use photosynthesis to convert inorganic carbon dioxide into organic particles that serve as food for all marine life. Collectively producing about 50 gigatons of carbon every year, these tiny organisms are just as important to the global carbon cycle as terrestrial plants.

In the online exhibit, visitors can explore the ways that such small organisms can play such a huge part in the global carbon cycle, finding out how we can observe phytoplankton from space and using interactive maps to visualise changes in phytoplankton biomass and carbon uptake over the last two decades.

Find the free online exhibit here:

Direct link to the Carbon from space exhibit:

Join Dr Gemma Kulk (PML), Professor Paul Palmer (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Mat Disney (University College London) on Friday 9 July at 12:30 for a lightning lecture and live Q&A session, ‘Stories from the frontier of Earth observation’ which will be livestreamed (and available afterwards) on the Royal Society YouTube channel.

Our breathing Earth video

The video below gives a short introduction to the Earth's global carbon cycle.