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Mathematical Modelling of Plankton Population Dynamics

Participation in INI programmes is by invitation only. Anyone wishing to apply to participate in the associated workshop(s) should use the relevant workshop application form.

29th July 1996 to 6th September 1996

Organisers: J Brindley (University of Leeds), M J Fasham (Southampton Oceanography Centre) and J McGlade, (University of Warwick)

Programme Theme

Plankton play a key role in ocean-atmosphere dynamics. Their effects range from alterations on a local scale of the structure of the sea surface temperature and mixed layer depths, to ocean basin-wide emissions of potentially important climatological gases such as dimethyl sulphate, up to global fluxes of atmospheric carbon. These effects occur over a wide range of spatio-temporal scales and via a number of different biophysical processes. Plankton also comprise the lowest trophic level in the oceanic food chain, and are crucial to the maintenance of world fisheries.

A wide range of mathematical models exists, varying from complex, compartmental models, amenable only to numerical experimentation, to simple caricature-like models designed to expose crucial qualitative features and their relationship to or dependence on physical processes. It seems certain that both these approaches have a role in advancing our knowledge and understanding of plankton dynamics, and a key objective of the workshop will be to generate links and collaboration which ensure that they inform and complement each other. The programme will also bring together mathematical and numerical modellers with biological oceanographers to review, improve and develop models, addressing particularly the need to understand the spatio-temporal scale distribution of plankton behaviour and its relationship with the physical dynamics of the ocean-atmosphere system.

Within the programme will be embedded a specialist workshop (12-17 August) in association with GLOBEC and the European Community, attended by greater numbers than the core participants, focussing on the links between plankton population models and fisheries recruitment models.


There will be a regular seminar programme throughout the period. The number of seminars will in general be limited to one per day so as to leave adequate time for real hands-on collaborative work to be initiated and pursued. Within the overall period we plan to hold a few more intensive days devoted to specific topics to include:

  • stochastic versus deterministic models
  • mathematical issues in low order models
  • relationship between low order models and higher dimensional compartmental models
  • identification of observable criteria for model evaluation.
University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons