Welcome to the Adrift project, a citizen science project that helps ocean scientists better understand the experiences of marine microbes.

This collaborative research project is hosted by UTS and funded by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (Inspiring Australia Initiative).

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Visualised here are ocean temperature anomalies over the past century that fluctuate around a mean temperature of 22.2ºC. Warmer temperatures drive a brighter background and have an affect on the size of the plankton that float within it. Click/drag to add plankton to this changing ocean.

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Marine microbes play a critical role in sustaining our planet. They are small organisms of immense significance, producing ~50% of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere and removing much of its carbon dioxide. However, due to climate change, their ocean habitats are undergoing unprecedented change; parts of the ocean are warming and becoming more acidic. How marine microbes experience this increasingly variable environment is an important question for ocean scientists to consider because impacts to microbes will cascade all the way through socio-ecological systems; the future of marine microbes is a global concern.

The ocean is vast and remains largely unexplored, rendering a significant challenge for oceanographic research. Through representative models of the ocean’s surface circulation, Adrift provides a simulated web environment that makes all parts of the ocean accessible and allows unprecedented aggregation of data across the dynamic seascape. Our objective in this project is to characterise the experience of drifting marine microbes in order to more accurately test their environmental tolerances in laboratory experiments.

Adrift calls on citizen scientists to help map the ocean trajectories of marine microbes within the simulated web environment. By compiling data along drift trajectories, citizens will help ocean scientists better understand the biological experiences of marine microbes and more accurately predict their future.

The project is a collaboration between the Climate Change Cluster and School of Design at the University of Technology Sydney together with the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago. Adrift is generously funded by the Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme, an initiative by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and supported by our partners, the Bureau of Meteorology and Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

Core team

Professor Martina Doblin(Lead CI)C3 Faculty of Science, UTS
Dr Jacqueline Lorber Kasunic(Co-I)Data Poetics, School of Design, UTS
Professor Kate Sweetapple(Co-I)Data Poetics, School of Design, UTS
Professor Nancy Longnecker(Co-I)Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago
Thomas Ricciardiello(Designer)Data Poetics, School of Design, UTS
Kristelle De Freitas(Designer)Data Poetics, School of Design, UTS
Dr Michaela Larsson(Postdoctoral Research Associate)C3 Faculty of Science, UTS
Andrea Liberatore(Research Assistant)Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago