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The Fawcett lab is interested in understanding the complex relationships between biogeochemical fluxes (particularly nitrogen (N) fluxes) and primary productivity in the ocean, with implications for past and future climate, ecosystem structure and function, ocean fertility, and global biogeochemical cycles. The lab’s principal tool is the natural abundance distributions of the stable isotopes of dissolved and particulate N forms, which provide an integrative view of biogeochemical and physical processes that are highly variable in time and space. The isotopes can be coupled with techniques such as flow cytometry and biological rate measurements, and integrated into biogeochemical models to yield high resolution insights into marine ecosystems.

Lab updates

August 2018: Sarah has been elected to the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). Check out the UCT news article here

April 2018: Sarah has been appointed to the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) Steering Committee. SOOS is an international initiative that seeks to facilitate the collection and delivery of essential observations on dynamics and change of Southern Ocean systems to all international stakeholders through design, advocacy and implementation of cost-effective observing and data delivery systems. Visit the SOOS website and/or read their announcement of new committee members.

April 2018: The Fawcett lab will be participating in an exciting expedition to the western Weddell Sea in January 2019. This collaborative project involves researchers from the Scott Polar Institute (Cambridge, UK), the Nekton Foundation (UK), the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), and SAEON/NMU (South Africa). Listen to Sarah talking about the expedition on Cape Talk radio here and read about the expedition here (BBC), here (Times Live), and here (Newsweek).

February 2018: Ph.D. students Mhlanga Mdutyana and Sandi Smart presented their research findings at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, OR USA.

December 2017: Sarah has been awarded a P-rating by the National Research Foundation. “The President’s rating is for young researchers less than 35 years of age who have held a Ph.D. for less than 5 years. Researchers in this group are recognized by all or the overwhelming majority of the reviewers as having demonstrated the potential of becoming future international leaders in their field on the basis of exceptional research performance and output from their doctoral and/or early postdoctoral research careers”. Read the UCT story here.

December 2017: PhD student Jeremy Kravitz has won second place in the NRF SAASTA Science in Action photography competition for his entry below entitled “Dropping down,” which you can read more about here.


August 2017: Ph.D. student Kolisa Sinyanya has been named the runner up in the 2018 Cape Town heat of Famelab for her talk about the ocean’s biological carbon pump.

July 2017: Sarah was awarded the SANCOR (South African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research) Young Researcher Award at the 2017 South African Marine Sciences Symposium that takes place every three years.

July 2017: Sarah was named one of the Top 200 Young South Africans of 2017.

July 2017: We participated in the 2017 SEAmester cruise. Sarah led the “Oceans in a Changing Climate” stream, and Heather, Ruan, and Robyn came along to do science. UCT has a news article about it here.

June 2017: We participated in a cruise to the winter Southern Ocean marginal ice zone, with the goal of collecting ice samples to measure for biogeochemical parameters.

April 2017: Sarah has been awarded the Claude Leon Merit Award for Early-Career Researchers. See the UCT news article here.

Check out the rest of the Fawcett lab news here.