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Phone: 207-633-9600

William Balch
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences


Research Area:
I am interested in factors which affect the distribution of phytoplankton in space and time. This work has focused on coccolithophores, which are one of the main sources of calcium carbonate on the globe. More recently, we have focused on algal viruses as well as physical processes that move phytoplankton cells through the mixed layer. My studies have crossed interdisciplinary lines in 4 areas:

Biocalcification - My laboratory has been studying the factors which regulate biocalcification. This has involved considerable time at sea and in the laboratory. We are synthesizing surveys of calcification in the equatorial Pacific, Arabian Sea, North Atlantic and Gulf of Maine. We have upcoming expeditions planned to the equatorial Pacific, and will maintain an active measurement program in the Gulf of Maine.

Bio-optics - These studies have focused on the bio-optical impact of suspended calcite in seawater and remote sensing algorithms used to quantify calcium carbonate concentrations from space. Since 1998 we have maintained an active field program in the Gulf of Maine involving a comprehensive time series of hydrographic, biological, optical and chemical properties. We also are participating in the U.K. Atlantic Meridional Transect program to test calcite algorithms in a wider variety of oceanic environments.

Primary Production Algorithms - My laboratory has been involved in studying new ways to estimate primary production and calcification from space using remote measurements of ocean color, sea surface temperature, and light.

Algal viruses - We have been performing laboratory experiments on the optical impact of viral infection of marine bacteria and phytoplankton. While viruses on their own have little optical impact, the infection process has profound optical impact as micron-sized cells are converted to submicron particles.

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