Emma Cavan

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Emma Cavan

Emma Cavan

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Room 213.11, Level 2, IMAS Hobart, Off-Campus

Dr Emma Cavan is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. She is interested in the biogeochemistry of the oceans, specifically the organic carbon cycle. Emma combines biogeochemical and ecological field, laboratory and data synthesis techniques to explore how carbon is drawn down and recycled in the oceans. Emma also has a keen interest in science and policy and encouraging scientists to produce policy-relevant science.


Before joining the University of Tasmania Emma did a short post-doc at the University of Liverpool (UK) on organic carbon cycling in the UK shelf seas, using lipids as biomarkers to track processes. Prior to this Emma did her PhD at the University of Southampton in the National Oceanography Centre. During her PhD she went on many research cruises including to the Southern Ocean and the Equatorial Pacific. She also did her combined masters degree in Marine Biology at the University of Southampton.

Emma suspended her PhD for 3 months to do an internship at the Royal Society, London, (UK) in their science policy centre. Here she worked on environmental policy issues and attended the Houses of Parliament in London and Stormont in Belfast. She is very active in engaging with the wider scientific community and is a council member for the Challenger Society for Marine Science (UK). She has also co-convened conferences and sessions and organised the first Diversity in Marine Science meeting at a Challenger conference.

Career summary


DegreeThesis titleUniversityCountryDate of award
PhDSink or swim: The fate of organic carbon in the interior oceanUniversity of SouthamptonUK1/09/2016
MSci (1st Class Hons)The reproductive success of the invasive Pacific oysterUniversity of SouthamptonUK1/07/2012


Quantitative Methods in Biology

Teaching expertise

Emma has taught undergraduate students and co-supervises Masters students in their research projects.

Research Appointments

2016: University of Liverpool, post-doctoral research associate

2016-2019: Challenger Society for Marine Science: Council member

View more on Dr Emma Cavan in WARP


  • Chemical Oceanography (040502)
  • Ecological Impacts of Climate Change (050101)
  • Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology) (060205)
  • Biological Oceanography (040501)
  • Environmental Chemistry (incl. Atmospheric Chemistry) (039901)
  • Global Change Biology (069902)
  • Microbial Ecology (060504)
  • Oceanography (040599)
  • Marine Geoscience (040305)
  • Biological Mathematics (010202)

Research Themes

Emma's research interests include understanding what controls the amount of carbon that is transferred from the surface ocean to the seafloor and the impact of climate change on this process. Organic particles are formed in the upper ocean by phytoplankton photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide that has dissolved in the ocean and storing it as organic carbon. These particles then sink to the deep ocean transferring carbon away from the atmosphere. Emma combines biogeochemical and ecological techniques in her research to explore what controls the sinking rates and remineralisation of these particles. Emma's research also aligns with ocean iron fertilisation which is a geoengineering technique, aimed at reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Emma is currently collaborating with scientists from the UK and South Africa on research prjects. She is also part of an international SCOR working group which involves scientists from UK, Germany, US, Brazil, South Africa and Australia.

Fields of Research

  • Biological Oceanography (040501)
  • Oceanography (040599)
  • Chemical Oceanography (040502)
  • Ecological Impacts of Climate Change (050101)

Research Objectives

  • Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water for Urban and Industrial Use (961101)
  • Climate Change Models (960303)
  • Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences (970104)
  • Global Effects of Climate Change and Variability (excl. Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Pacific) (excl. Social Impacts) (960310)


Emma has published and reviewed in many different journals including Nature Communications, Geophysical Research Letters and Biogeosciences.

Total publications


Journal Article

(8 outputs)
2019Cavan EL, Henson SA, Boyd PW, 'The sensitivity of subsurface microbes to ocean warming accentuates future declines in particulate carbon export', Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6 Article 230. ISSN 2296-701X (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00230 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Boyd PW


2018Cavan EL, Boyd PW, 'Effect of anthropogenic warming on microbial respiration and particulate organic carbon export rates in the sub-Antarctic Southern Ocean', Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 82, (2) pp. 111-127. ISSN 0948-3055 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3354/ame01889 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1

Co-authors: Boyd PW


2018Cavan EL, Giering SLC, Wolff GA, Trimmer M, Sanders R, 'Alternative particle formation pathways in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific's biological carbon pump', Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences pp. 1-14. ISSN 2169-8953 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1029/2018JG004392 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1


2017Baker CA, Henson SA, Cavan EL, Giering SLC, Yool A, et al., 'Slow-sinking particulate organic carbon in the Atlantic Ocean: magnitude, flux, and potential controls', Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 31, (7) pp. 1051-1065. ISSN 0886-6236 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1002/2017GB005638 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 3


2017Cavan EL, Henson SA, Belcher A, Sanders R, 'Role of zooplankton in determining the efficiency of the biological carbon pump', Biogeosciences, 14 pp. 177-186. ISSN 1726-4170 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.5194/bg-14-177-2017 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 15Web of Science - 16


2017Cavan EL, Trimmer M, Shelley F, Sanders R, 'Remineralization of particulate organic carbon in an ocean oxygen minimum zone', Nature Communications, 8 Article 14847. ISSN 2041-1723 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14847 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 22Web of Science - 17


2016Le Moigne FAC, Henson SA, Cavan E, Georges C, Pabortsava K, et al., 'What causes the inverse relationship between primary production and export efficiency in the Southern Ocean?', Geophysical Research Letters, 43, (9) pp. 4457-4466. ISSN 0094-8276 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1002/2016GL068480 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 18Web of Science - 18


2015Cavan EL, Le Moigne FAC, Poulton AJ, Tarling GA, Ward P, et al., 'Attenuation of particulate organic carbon flux in the Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean, is controlled by zooplankton fecal pellets', Geophysical Research Letters, 42, (3) pp. 821-830. ISSN 0094-8276 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1002/2014GL062744 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 36Web of Science - 35


IMAS Research Enhancement Prorgram for a pilot project - $5000