Walker Smith Home Page

Walker O. Smith, Jr.

Professor of Marine Science

Email: [[wos]]
Phone: (804) 684-7709
Office: Maury Hall 201
Department: Biological Sciences
Interests: Phytoplankton growth/photosynthetic material in surface layer of oceans.
Website: {{http://www.vims.edu/research/units/labgroups/phytoplankton_ecology/, Phytoplankton Ecology}}
Full Curriculum Vita: {{http://www.vims.edu/people/smith_wo/cv/cv_walker_02_2018.pdf, CV}}

  • B.S., University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
  • Ph.D., Duke University
Research Interests

Our laboratory interests center on the controls of phytoplankton growth and the factors that control the fate of the photosynthetic material in the surface layer of the ocean. To that end we are interested in the interactions between various pools of organic carbon in the surface of the ocean, including dissolved organic carbon, dissolved inorganic carbon, total particulate organic carbon, and living matter (bacteria, micro- and mesozooplankton). We have primarily focused on processes occurring in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, largely because the Antarctic is known to be critical in controlling the marine carbon cycle due to its interaction with the atmosphere and its role in producing deep water. We quantify the contribution of phytoplankton to the particulate organic carbon pool using a number of procedures, and then analyze the fluxes to and from this pool. I have a strong interest in the role of phytoplankton assemblage structure on the vertical flux of material from the ocean's surface, and also have a strong interest in the role of iron in structuring the ocean's phytoplankton productivity and growth.

I also have developed an interest in applying new technology to oceanography, specifically the use of gliders in the Antarctic. We have had one project that investigated the spatial coherence of deep-water intrusions onto the shelf in the Ross Sea with surface phytoplankton blooms, and have another one that will look at the linkage in space and time of phytoplankton blooms, relative abundance of macrozooplankton and small fish, and penguin foraging. This project seeks to demonstrate that penguin “hotspots” of foraging develop in response to prey aggregations that can be identified by physical factors. As part of that we also will begin the formation of a full food web model of the Ross Sea.

Finally, I have been working off the coast of Vietnam and have investigated the ecophysiology of a harmful algal bloom species (Phaeocystis globosa) that blooms there. The species has a number of unusual characteristics which greatly influence its life history. Although the project has ended, we hope to continue this work in the near future. 

I have recently been appointed as a 1000 Talents Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and am in residence in China for approximately 6 months per year. 

Current Projects
  • Collaborative Research: Shelfbreak Frontal Dynamics: Mechanisms of Upwelling, Net Community Production, and Ecological Implications (OCE/NSF)
  • Effects of Temperature on Phytoplankton Growth Rates (OPP/NSF)
  • Collaborative Research: The effect of carbonate chemistry on the sea ice community in the High Arctic (OPP/NSF)
Selected Publications
  • Smith, W.O., Jr. and D.M. Nelson. 1985. Phytoplankton bloom produced by a receding ice edge in the Ross Sea: Spatial coherence with the density field. Science 227: 163 166.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr. Editor. 1990. Polar Oceanography. Parts A and B. Academic Press, San Diego. 760 p.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr., L.A. Codispoti, D.M. Nelson, T. Manley, E.J. Buskey, H.J. Niebauer and G.F. Cota. 1991. Importance of Phaeocystis blooms in the high latitude ocean carbon cycle. Nature 352: 514 516.
  • Cota, G.F., W.O. Smith, Jr. and B.G. Mitchell. 1994. Photosynthesis of Phaeocystis in the Greenland Sea. Limnol. Oceanogr. 39: 948-953.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr. and L.I. Gordon. 1997. Hyperproductivity of the Ross Sea (Antarctica) polynya during austral spring. Geophys. Res. Letters 24: 233-236.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr., C.A. Carlson, H.W. Ducklow, and D.A. Hansell. 1998. Growth dynamics of Phaeocystis antarctica-dominated plankton assemblages from the Ross Sea. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 168: 229-244.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr., J. Marra, M.R. Hiscock and R.T. Barber. 2000. The seasonal cycle of phytoplankton biomass and primary productivity in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Deep-Sea Res. II 47: 3119-3140.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr. and V.A. Asper. 2000. A balanced nitrogen budget of the surface layer of the Southern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters 27: 2721-2724.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr. and V.A. Asper. 2001. The influence of phytoplankton assemblage composition on biogeochemical characteristics and cycles in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Deep-Sea Res. I 48: 137-161.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr., M.R. Dennett, S. Mathot and D.A. Caron. 2003. The temporal dynamics of the flagellated and colonial stages of Phaeocystis antarctica in the Ross Sea. Deep-Sea Res. II 50: 605-618.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr., M.S. Dinniman, J.M. Klinck, and E. Hoffman. 2003. Biogeochemical climatologies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica: seasonal patterns of nutrients and biomass. Deep-Sea Res. II 50: 3083-3101.
  • Smith, W.O. Jr. and D.G. Barber (Eds.), Polynyas: Windows to the World's Oceans Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Smith, W.O., Jr., A.R. Shields, J.A. Peloquin, G. Catalano, S. Tozzi, M.S. Dinniman and V.A. Asper. 2006. Biogeochemical budgets in the Ross Sea:  variations among years. Deep-Sea Res. II 53: 815-833.
  • Smith, W.O. Jr. and D.G. Barber (Eds.).  2007. Polynyas: Windows to the World’s Oceans. Elsevier, Amsterdam. 437 pp.
  • Smith, W.O. Jr., D.G. Ainley and R. Cattaneo-Vietti. 2007. Trophic interactions within the Ross Sea continental shelf ecosystem. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc., ser. B 362: 95-111.
  • Smith, W.O. Jr. and J.C. Comiso. 2008. The influence of sea ice on primary production in the Southern Ocean: a satellite perspective.  J. Geophys. Res. 113, C05S93, doi:10.1029/2007JC004251.
  • Blight, L.K., D.G. Ainley, S.F. Ackley, G. Ballard, T. Ballerini, R.L. Browell, Jr., C.-H.C. Cheng, M. Chaitore, D. Costa, M.C. Coulter, P. Dayton, A.L. DeVries, R. Dunbar, S. Earle, J.T. Eastman, S.D. Emslie, C.W. Evans, R.A. Garrott, S. Kim, G. Kooyman, M. Lizotte, M. Massaro, S. Olmastroni, P.J. Ponganis, J. Russel, D.B. Siniff, W.O. Smith Jr., B.S. Stewart, I. Stirling, J. Willis, P. Wilson and E.J. Woehler. 2011. Fishing for data.  Science 330: 1316. 
  • Smith, W.O. Jr., V. Asper, S. Tozzi, X. Liu and S.E. Stammerjohn. 2011. Surface layer variability in the Ross Sea, Antarctica as assessed by in situ fluorescence measurements. Prog. Oceanogr.  88: 28-45 (doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2010.08.002).
  • Smith, W.O. Jr., A.R. Shields, J. Dreyer, J.A. Peloquin and V. Asper. 2011. Interannual variability in vertical export in the Ross Sea: magnitude, composition, and environmental correlates. Deep-Sea Res. I 58: 147-159.
  • Smith, W.O. Jr., P.N. Sedwick, K.R. Arrigo, D.G. Ainley, and A.H. Orsi. 2012. The Ross Sea in a sea of change. Oceanography (in press).
  • Smith, W.O. Jr., X. Liu, K.W. Tang, L.M. Delizo, N.H. Doan, N.L. Nguyen, and X. Wang. 2012. Giantism and its role in the harmful algal bloom species Phaeocystis globosa. Deep-Sea Res. II (in press).
Courses Taught
  • MS 501:  Fundamentals of Marine Science 
  • MS 526:  Advanced Marine Ecology
  • MS 610:  Climate Change in the Marine Environment
  • MS 698:  Polar Oceanography
Collaborative/Interdisciplinary Efforts
  • PRISM (Processes Regulating Iron Supply at the Mesoscale) – a collaborative project involving investigators from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (D. McGillicuddy) and Old Dominion University (P. Sedwick, E. Hoffman, J. Klinck)
  • GOVARS (Glider Observed Variations in the Ross Sea)
  • IVARS (Interannual Variations in the Ross Sea), with Dr. Vernon Asper (University of Southern Mississippi)
  • Seasonal Biogeochemical Processes in the Ross Sea: A Modeling Approach, with Eileen Hofmann and John Klinck (Old Dominion University)
Recent Presentations
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea: An Illusion of Knowledge? Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; October, 2011.
  • The role, growth, and fate of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean: Observations, Models and New Approaches to Old Problems. Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; June, 2011.
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea: An Illusion of Knowledge? Gothenberg University,  Gothenberg, Sweden, March, 2011.
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea: An Illusion of Knowledge? Xiamen University, Xiamen, PRC; January, 2011.
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea: An Illusion of Knowledge? McMurdo Station, Antarctica; November, 2010.
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea: An Illusion of Knowledge? Jinan University, Guangzhou, PRC; October, 2010.
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea: An Illusion of Knowledge? South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Guangzhou, PRC; October, 2010.
  • Phaeocystis  and its role in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Institute of Oceanology, Nha Trang, Vietnam; August, 2010.
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea: An Illusion of Knowledge? University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA; May, 2010.
  • Phytoplankton Growth and Oceanographic Variability in the Ross Sea:An Illusion of Knowledge? Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA; April, 2010.