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Andrew Barton


Marine phytoplankton are microscopic photosynthetic organisms living in the ocean surface. They form the base of the marine food chain, and can thus impact larger marine organisms, from zooplankton to commercially important fish and even whales. Phytoplankton also play instrumental roles in the global cycles of carbon, oxygen, and other elements. Yet despite their tremendous ecological, societal, and global importance, we are only beginning to explore the great biodiversity of phytoplankton, and understand their complex ecology and interactions with the environment.

Our research seeks to map the distribution of phytoplankton species in the ocean, and illuminate the fundamental biological and ecological processes that underpin these patterns. We investigate how changes in Earth’s climate, including natural variability and long-term changes driven by human activities, have the potential to alter phytoplankton species distributions and community composition. To illustrate and study these complex natural processes, we develop cutting-edge computer models that simulate the marine environment and the many types of plankton living in the ocean. We integrate these models with real observations from the sea, using large compilations of environmental, ecological, and biological data to glean novel inferences about marine plankton life. Our research is building understanding of a critical, if individually tiny, component of life on Earth.


  • Barton, A.D., Irwin, A.J., Finkel, Z.V., and C. Stock (2016). Anthropogenic climate change drives shift and shuffle in North Atlantic phytoplankton communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 113: 2964-2969.
  • Dave, A.C., Barton, A.D., Lozier, M.S., and G.A. McKinley (2015). What drives seasonal change in oligotrophic area in the subtropical North Atlantic? Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans 120, doi:10.1002/2015JC01078.
  • Barton, A.D., Ward, B.A., R.G. Williams, and M.J. Follows (2014). The impact of small-scale fluid turbulence on phytoplankton nutrient uptake rates and community structure. Limnology and Oceanography Fluids and Environments 4, 34-49.
  • Barton, A.D., Williams, R.G., and M.S. Lozier (2014). Physical controls of variability in North Atlantic phytoplankton communities. Limnology and Oceanography 60, 181-197.
  • Barton, A.D., Pershing, A.J., Litchman, E., Record, N.R., Edwards, K.F., Finkel, Z.V., Kiørboe, T., and B.A. Ward (2013). The biogeography of marine plankton traits. Ecology Letters 16, 522-534.
  • Barton, A.D., Finkel, Z.V., Ward, B.A., Johns, D.G., and M.J. Follows (2013). On the roles of cell size and trophic strategy in North Atlantic diatom and dinoflagellate communities. Limnology and Oceanography 58 (1), 254-266.
  • Mariani, P., Andersen, K.H., Visser, A.W., Barton, A.D., and T. Kiørboe (2013). Control of plankton seasonal succession by adaptive grazing. Limnology and Oceanography 58 (1), 173-184.
  • Ward, B.A., Dutkiewicz, S., Barton, A.D., and M.J. Follows (2011). Biophysical aspects of resource acquisition and competition in algal mixotrophs. The American Naturalist 178 (1), 98-112.
  • Barton, A.D., Dutkiewicz, S., Flierl, G., Bragg, J., and M.J. Follows (2010). Response to Comment on “Patterns of diversity in marine phytoplankton.” Science 329, 512-d.
  • Barton, A.D., Dutkiewicz, S., Flierl, G., Bragg, J., and M.J. Follows (2010). Patterns of diversity in marine phytoplankton. Science 327, 1509-1511.
  • Barton, A.D., and K.S. Casey (2005). Climatological context for large-scale coral bleaching observed since 1979. Coral Reefs 24 (4), 536-554.
  • Barton, A.D., Greene, C.H., Monger, B.C., and A.J. Pershing (2003). The Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey and North Atlantic Oscillation: Interannual- to multidecadal-scale patterns of phytoplankton variability in Northwest Shelf, Northeast Shelf, and Central North Atlantic Ecosystems. Progress in Oceanography 58, 337-358.


Andrew Barton received his Ph.D in Climate Physics and Chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011, and was an NSF International Research Postdoctoral Fellow hosted jointly between Duke University and the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Dr. Barton joined the faculty of Biological Sciences and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2016.