In April 2015 Professor Mark Trimmer delivered his inaugural lecture - New spokes for old cycles: The life sustaining transformation of bio-elements on Earth
9 April 2015
You could say that “my attention tendered to wander” at school and I ended-up with a half a handful of mediocre ‘O’ levels, followed by a polite request from the Head Master to “continue my education elsewhere”. Eventually I was accepted on to an HND in Applied Biology at the University of East London. This was a truly ‘night and day’ event for me – I fell in love with practical science, measurement and scientific literature. Graduated from there with a prize for the best HND since 1963 and went onto to study Environmental Science with Ecology at the University of Westminster. Here I was also fortunate enough to be put in a laboratory with a fantastically enthusiastic Swedish PhD student – spending 6 months working on plants and microbiology and I thought: “I could do this for a career” (the first such thought up to that point).
A brief interlude making recording studios for the stars (Annie Lennox, Ian Anderson, Sade et al) and then to a PhD at the University of Essex studying carbon and nitrogen cycling in estuaries and then a related Post-Doc, also at Essex. Secured a NERC Fellowship in 1999 and then took up a lectureship in aquatic biology at Queen Mary in the same year. Made Senior Lecturer in 2005, Reader in 2010 and Professor in 2012. I use 15N and 13C to study the cycling of nitrogen and carbon from headwater streams to the deep ocean and am currently leading an NERC funded consortium to look at C,N,P cycling in different components of the landscape.
Life on Earth is sustained by the cycling of the key bio-elements – carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Humans have altered the balance of these cycles to a truly staggering extent. While our doubling of the nitrogen cycle keeps the population alive today, our activities are putting untold pressures on the world around us. Though these cycles are probably familiar to us all from our memories of common school texts, scientific advances are revealing ever greater complexity – including significant contributions from microorganisms that, until recently, were thought to be oddities, confined to extreme environments.
Here I will introduce the role that my science has played in unravelling the complexities of these life-sustaining cycles, from the pristine chalk streams of England, to the tropical north Pacific where the oxygen deplete waters make vast amounts of nitrous oxide - aka laughing gas - still, it’s a funny old world…