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Mark Brzezinski

Co-Principal Investigator 


I was born on the east coast in Syracuse, New York, but I am now a professor of oceanography at the University of California Santa Barbara. My family vacations to the coast of Maine ignited my interest in marine science at a young age. As with many young people, my first ambitions were to study some of the charismatic mega-fauna of the oceans, things like whales, seals, and porpoise. As I learned more about the sea, I realized that, while such animals are key players in their ecosystems, the largest impact of ocean life on the health of our planet was dominated by the very small microscopic phytoplankton that are invisible to the naked eye. 


I ended up becoming an expert in the study of diatoms, which you will read a lot about on this website. My interest in diatoms stems from their huge impact on our planet. They account for up up to 20% of photosynthetic carbon fixation on our entire planet! That's more than all the tropical and temperate forests combined! I investigate what controls the life and times of diatoms across our vast oceans. My research has taken me to the coasts of California and Oregon, the tropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, to the North Pole, and to the Antarctic. 


We are learning how the role of diatoms varies across these vastly different marine ecosystems. One of my favorite aspects of working on phytoplankton is the need to combine an understanding of plankton biology with marine chemistry and ocean physics. To understand plankton, you have to understand the currents that push them around, the chemistry that provides the fertilizer elements they need to grow, and the organisms that rely on plankton as food. It's complicated but incredibly fun and rewarding work. On our current expedition we are extending this interdisciplinary perspective to include how we can use the isotopic signatures carried within diatoms to understand environmental conditions and diatom productivity in the geologic past. So, now I get to add marine geology to my repertoire of interests!

Janice Jones


Hi! I’m Janice, Mark Brzezinski’s lab technician/manager. I’ve been involved in oceanic research for over 30 years and have been working with Mark for the last 19 years.  My responsibilities at sea include sample collection (mostly filtering water!) and recording everything.  I work very hard to make sure the data we have when we leave the ship is accurate and organized.  Keeping on top of the many types of samples collected by everyone in the science party makes me the person people love to hate – I’m always asking “did you fill in the log?”  It’s not the most glamorous part of research but it’s a very important part.  It makes things much easier when we get home – I can look through my logs for specific samples I need to run.  There’s a lot more to scientific research than people think!

Ivia Closset


Hi! I’m Ivia, and I work as a postdoc with Mark Brzezinski at the Marine Science Institute in Santa Barbara. I have been fond of the ocean and science since I was very young. I’m French so I did my PhD in Paris but I like travelling and exploring the world. This is not my first cruise in the Southern Ocean, but this is the first time I will be on an icebreaker such as the RVIB N.B. Palmer.


My main interest is to study the silicon isotopes in the ocean. During the cruise, I will collect seawater samples and diatoms to understand how they fractionate silicon isotopes, their influence on the silicon isotope distribution and try to better quantify the different fluxes of silicon between the surface and the deep Southern Ocean. These results will help to better reconstruct what happen in this ocean in the past but also to better understand the marine silicon cycle and maybe attempt to make prediction on how it may change in the future.

Heather McNair


Hi! My name is Heather McNair, and I'm a PhD student at the University of California Santa Barbara with Mark Brzezinski and Jeff Krause. My research focuses on diatoms, microscopic algae in the ocean, which make cell walls of silica, the same material in glass. I'll be joining the Antarctica cruise to help collect samples to measure silicon isotopes.


I am super excited to go to Antarctica and experience first-hand the beauty of polar landscapes. It's such a treat to get to go into the field to intensively study fascinating organisms and processes. I'm looking forward to being enveloped by science for the weeks aboard the RVIB N.B. Palmer and then exploring some of New Zealand.

Diana Gutiérrez Franco


Diana is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), earning a BS in aquatic biology. She works as a lab assistant in Dr. Mark Brzezinski’s lab at UCSB.

During this cruise, she will perform the chlorophyll measurements and help with anything else that is needed around the lab. She is interested in phytoplankton, specifically their role in the biological carbon pump and how climate change affects their community structure and function.

Diana spent the first half of her childhood in Colombia and then relocated to California, where she still lives. Aside from her science interests, Diana likes to swim in the ocean, hike, listen to a variety of music, and read.

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