Jenna MacKinnon, M.Sc. Candidate

Memorial University of Newfoundland, Environmental Science Program

Jenna, a recent B.Sc. (Biochemistry) graduate from Mount Allison University, is beginning her Master’s work in Environmental Science at Memorial University. Her interest in biochemistry from her undergraduate degree as well as her passion for environmental work led to her master’s project exploring lipid classes and fatty acids in trophic ecology.

Supervisor(s): Dr. Christopher Parrish

Start to Finish: 07/2016 to 09/2018

CHONe Project: 2.2.1: Biogeochemical signatures of ecosystem stress and resilience: nutrient cycles and lipid flow

Project Title: The Effects of Temperature, pCO2, and Nitrogen Content on Lipid Classes and Fatty Acids in Plankton at Different Trophic Levels

Project Description:

Jenna is studying the biochemical responses to stress in the marine environment while working with Dr. Chris Parrish in the lipid lab at the Ocean Sciences Centre. She will the connection between changes in lipid composition and quantity across marine trophic levels, beginning with phytoplankton producers followed by zooplankton primary consumers. She will also investigate the potential influence of environmental stressors (temperature, pCO2, and nitrogen supply) on different lipid classes and fatty acids at each trophic level. Lipid analysis at different trophic levels can explain the transfer of energy and essential fatty acids and reflect ecosystem health changes in the marine environment.

The specific project/thesis aims are:

  1. Identify lipid composition of key species in the marine food web (phytoplankton & zooplankton).
  2. Determine the presence/absence of specific phytoplankton lipid biomarkers.
  3. Identify significance/insignificance of environmental stressors on lipid composition of key species in marine food web.

Lipid analysis will be the starting point for explaining detrimental changes in the food web, especially affecting higher levels as changes in food quantity and quality at the producing level are very influential. Some lipids are essential, meaning they cannot be produced by animals and are required via high-quality diet consumption. This could directly relate to the importance of marine environment conservation, as further change in temperature, pCO2, and nitrogen supply could negatively influence the ability of producers and consumers to extend essential lipid movement up food webs.