Shubha Sathyendranath, Ph.D.

Merit Remote Sensing Scientist, Plymouth Marine LaboratoryShubha Sathyendranath’s website

CBIOMES Project: Ocean biogeochemistry and ecology from space

The pelagic ecosystem is an open, dissipative system, and light is the external source of energy that sustains ocean biogeochemistry and maintains the bulk of the ocean biosphere. Satellite visible spectral radiometry (commonly referred to as ocean color) can measure the quantity and spectral quality of light at the sea surface, and also monitor how well this energy source is coupled to the biosphere through phytoplankton pigments, notably the pigment chlorophyll-a, which is central to marine photosynthesis. This powerful observational tool, when combined with appropriate physiological models, provides the means to explore ocean biogeochemistry and ecology at the global scale, with unparalleled temporal and spatial resolution, and over a long period. The current uninterrupted, climate-quality time series of ocean-color data and products start from 1997 and plans are in place for continued observations for decades into the future. At the same time, the ocean-color technology has been improving steadily, along with the theoretical and empirical underpinning of methodologies for interpretation of the data, such that there is a growing potential for expanding the portfolio of satellite-derived estimates of biogeochemical and ecological pools and fluxes. The goal of this project is to develop novel satellite-based products and improve existing products on ocean biogeochemistry and marine ecology.

Working with ecosystem modelers, mathematicians, statisticians, ecologists and molecular biologists in CBIOMES allows us to focus on the same problem from multiple perspectives, to reconcile differences, and improve our understanding of the structure and function of the marine biosphere, in particular the microbial pool, consistent with the overall goals of CBIOMES.

Shubha Sathyendranath was educated in India and France. She has some 40 years’ experience in the fields of marine optics and remote sensing of ocean color. Her interests include bio-optical properties of phytoplankton, marine primary production, biological-physical feedbacks in the ocean, phytoplankton phenology, ecological provinces in the ocean, water-borne infectious diseases, development of algorithms for remote-sensing of phytoplankton types, and the use of ocean-color data in climate studies. She has over 250 publications on these and related topics.

A native of India, she has studied and worked in India, France, Canada and the United Kingdom. Her many scientific contributions have been recognized in the Grande Médaille Albert 1er of Monaco. She has devoted considerable effort to capacity building in developing countries, for which she has received the UNESCO/IOC Pannikkar Memorial Medal. She is currently the science lead for the ocean-color component of the European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative. She has been a Fellow of the Marine Biological Association of UK since 2020. She was the recipient of the A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in the Marine Sciences in 2021. She is the current chair of the International Ocean-Colour Coordinating Group.

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