Research ProjectCosmic Events & Ocean Productivity

Solar irradiance changes and photobiological effects at Earth’s surface following astrophysical ionizing radiation events

gamma ray burst illustration

Artist's depiction of a gamma ray burst impinging on Earth's atmosphere (NASA)

Project Goal

Understand the possible effect of a cosmic event that directs ionizing radiation to Earth's atmosphere on phytoplankton productivity. These events, such as a gamma ray burst, may deplete stratospheric ozone and allow UVB to penetrate the upper layers of the ocean. Modeling and experimental data are used to estimate responses.


There is a small probability that Earth could be bombarded by gamma rays from a stellar source.  If this happens, a major portion of the ozone layer will disappear.  We will be assessing the possible impact of such severe ozone depletion (and associated increase in UV) on marine primary productivity.You can learn about one of our gamma ray burst experiments in the following video.

For more details on gamma ray bursts see:

UV Effects of Gamma Ray Bursts. Video credits: Anne Goetz, Editor; Lia Kvatum, Producer/Writer/Camera; Tony Franken, Music.