Wu is a biogeochemist interested in the mechanisms through which marine ecosystem and physical and biogeochemical processes interact in the ocean. He joined the MIT group in Fall 2018 to work with EAPS Professor Mick Follows on characterization and modeling of the functional and taxonomic biogeography of plankton in the ocean.
“Currently. I am working on two projects both relating to phytoplankton biogeography in the ocean,” Wu says. “One is modeling photosynthesis and exudation of DOM in subtropical oceans. In this project, I have decoupled photosynthesis and biosynthesis, and introduced exudation of phytoplankton, which is an important source of DOM, into the Darwin model. Global primary production of the modified model is then compared with the previous model to evaluate the contribution of phytoplankton exudation.”
“The second project is an individual-based model (IBM) focusing on phytoplankton dispersal at the mesoscale or sub-mesoscale and including the diel cycle. Instead of modeling total biomass, this IBM simulates single phytoplankton cells allowing each species to have a different size distribution. Phytoplankton community structure is then examined in different scenarios of advection and diffusion as well as different photosynthetic energy utilization strategies.”
Before coming to MIT, Wu had recently finished a PhD in environmental science with Professor Yong Liu at Peking University, China. His doctoral research was focused on eutrophication and biogeochemical dynamics especially nutrient cycling in lakes using a model-based N:P stoichiometric approach.
While trying to uncover the underlying biogeochemical mechanism driving eutrophication in lakes, Wu says he became increasingly interested in the underlying biogeochemical processes within lakes and the ocean and how these processes impact phytoplankton in aquatic ecosystems.
When he’s not thinking about nutrient cycling, Zhen Wu enjoys swimming and skiing. He says he also likes to cook, especially Chinese dishes to share with friends.
Story image credit: Helen Hill
Photo Credit: Disease Biophysics Group, Harvard University