Richard S. Lampitt
The 2021 Fridtjof Nansen Medal is awarded to Richard S. Lampitt for transformative and interdisciplinary research concerning the ocean biological carbon pump, including measures of organic particle fluxes needed to close the carbon budget in the Twilight Zone.
Richard S. Lampitt is a true interdisciplinary scientist who has produced important work in zooplankton ecology, chemical oceanography, and in the development of new technology facilitating key ocean measurements. He brings to oceanography an exceptional combination of deep knowledge and creative visionary perspective. Furthermore, Lampitt’s scientific work is often targeted at key societal issues, such as geoengineering and ocean plastic pollution.
Lampitt’s innovative research approaches are often years ahead of their time. For example, he pioneered holographic imaging and time-lapse photography to catalogue the seafloor’s ecosystem. His work has explored how the growth rate of deep-sea organisms can be deduced from their dimensions in seafloor photographs, which is key work given the emerging capability for autonomous photographic mapping of the seafloor. Furthermore, Lampitt’s techniques for studying marine snow were instrumental in producing a groundbreaking closed budget of organic carbon in the ocean’s Twilight Zone (200-1000 m depth). This enormously influential work is one of the most important advances in biological oceanography over the last 25 years. It has paved the way for a host of international programmes and working groups that probe the inner working of the Twilight Zone, which is a region that plays a pivotal role in regulating climate and supplying protein to humanity.
Lampitt’s impact is evidenced by individual research papers, the development of measurement technologies, and the mentoring of a generation of oceanographers to equip them with knowledge to address emerging research questions. He has also provided energetic and pivotal community leadership for projects such as the longstanding Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP) sustained observatory in the northeast Atlantic, which now provides more than 25 years of data to facilitate a variety of studies into ocean climate. Relatedly, Lampitt was a founding and executive member of OceanSITES, which coordinates 60 observatories distributed globally from the shelf sea to deep ocean. In these leadership roles, he has been committed to the free and rapid distribution of datasets to the broader community, thus facilitating thorough and open oceanographic research.
Lampitt recognized that unravelling anthropogenic impacts from natural variability required robust measurements and long-term monitoring of key processes that are coordinated in both time and space. Satisfying this multifaceted aim required an international network of existing and new ocean observatories spanning the sea surface to seafloor across a suite of ocean biogeographical provinces. Lampitt has led many of these efforts over the years, from recognizing the critical ocean research questions, designing innovative and robust methods to study these questions, and following through with decades of research in collaboration with students, postdocs, and scientists from around the world. This style of work offers a clear example of how Lampitt has moved the field of ocean sciences forward in a substantive and impactful manner.