People > Dr Ruth Airs

Dr Ruth Airs

Organic Chemist

Contact Details

+44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)


Dr Ruth Airs is a Senior Analytical Biogeochemist at PML. Her research on nitrogenous osmolytes focusses around the controls on their natural distributions in marine systems including UK coastal seawater and the Southern Ocean, their relevance for marine microbes, as precursors for methylamines and their importance for atmospheric chemistry. Ruth’s other main research interest is in photosynthetic pigments. Ruth uses sedimentary pigment distributions to inform studies of pelagic-benthic coupling, and studies the formation of chlorophyll alteration products during phytoplankton fate processes. Ruth also manages the phytoplankton pigment facility at PML, overseeing datasets produced for the Atlantic Meridional Transect programme, the Western Channel Observatory and Earth Observation projects. Ruth has a BSc and PhD in Chemistry from the University of York, and undertook a short post-doc in aquatic microbial ecology at the University of Girona before joining PML in 2002.



The Changing Arctic Ocean Seafloor (ChAOS) - how changing sea ice conditions impact biological communities, biogeochemical processes and ecosystems

Contact: Professor Steve Widdicombe

The ChAOS project will focus on how climate change and diminishing sea ice affects impact biological communities, biogeochemical processes and...

S-3 EUROHAB - Sentinel products for detecting EUtROphication and Harmful Algal Bloom events

S-3 EUROHAB - Sentinel products for detecting EUtROphication and Harmful Algal Bloom events

Contact: Dr Gavin Tilstone

S-3 EUROHAB will use the latest satellite technology to improve the way water quality and harmful algal blooms (HABs) are monitored in the English...

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Other key projects

  • 2017-2020: NERC IOF Pump Priming Plus Award NE/P0085261: N-OSmolytes Across the Surface Southern Ocean (NOSASSO).
  • 2016-2018: Surveying Organic Reactive gases and Particles Across the Surface Southern Ocean (SORPASSO) within the 2016-2017 Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition.
  • 2017-2020: NERC Discovery Grant NE/P012930/1: A multidisciplinary study of DMSP production and lysis - from enzymes to organisms to process modelling.
  • 2016-2019: NERC Discovery Grant NE/N001974/1: Revealing a mechanistic understanding of the role of viruses and host nutrient status in modulating CO2 fixation in key marine phototrophs.
  • 2017-2021: The Changing Arctic Ocean Seafloor (ChAOS) – how changing sea ice conditions impact biological communities, biogeochemical processes and ecosystems, within the Changing Arctic Ocean research programme.
  • 2016-2017 BBSRC-NPRONET Proof of Concept Grant: A metabolomics approach to antimicrobials discovery in seaweeds.
  • 2014-2017 NERC Discovery Grant NE/M003361/1: Biogeochemical cycling of N-osmolytes in the surface ocean.

Recent publications

  • Airs, RL. 2017 Mass Spectrometry of Chlorophylls from Phototrophic Prokaryotes. Current Organic Chemistry, 21. 10.2174/1385272821666170920164422 (In Press)
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  • Steele, DJ; Kimmance, SA; Franklin, DJ; Airs, RL. 2017 Occurrence of chlorophyll allomers during virus‐induced mortality and population decline in the ubiquitous picoeukaryote Ostreococcus tauri. Environmental Microbiology. 10.1111/1462-2920.13980
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  • Jameson, E; Doxey, AC; Airs, RL; Purdy, KJ; Murrell, JC; Chen, Y. 2016 Metagenomic data-mining reveals contrasting microbial populations responsible for trimethylamine formation in human gut and marine ecosystems. Microbial Genomics, 2 (9). 10.1099/mgen.0.000080
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  • Dall’Osto, M; Ovadnevaite, J; Paglione, M; Beddows, DCS; Ceburnis, D; Cree, C; Cortés, P; Zamanillo, M; Nunes, SO; Pérez, GL; Ortega-Retuerta, E; Emelianov, M; Vaqué, D; Marrasé, C; Estrada, M; Sala, MM; Vidal, M; Fitzsimons, MF; Beale, R; Airs, RL; Rinaldi, M; Decesari, S; Cristina Facchini, M; Harrison, RM; O’Dowd, C; Simó, R. 2017 Antarctic sea ice region as a source of biogenic organic nitrogen in aerosols. Scientific Reports, 7 (1). 10.1038/s41598-017-06188-x
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  • Archer, SD; Stefels, J; Airs, RL; Lawson, T; Smyth, TJ; Rees, AP; Geider, RJ. 2017 Limitation of dimethylsulfoniopropionate synthesis at high irradiance in natural phytoplankton communities of the Tropical Atlantic. Limnology and Oceanography. 10.1002/lno.10625
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  • Brewin, RJW; Ciavatta, S; Sathyendranath, S; Jackson, T; Tilstone, GH; Curran, K; Airs, RL; Cummings, DG; Brotas, V; Organelli, E; Dall'Olmo, GD; Raitsos, DE. 2017 Uncertainty in ocean-colour estimates of chlorophyll for phytoplankton groups. Frontiers in Marine Science, 4 (104). 10.3389/fmars.2017.00104
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View more publications

Selected key publications

  • Beale R, Airs RL. 2016. Quantification of glycine betaine, choline and trimethylamine N-oxide in seawater particulates: minimisation of seawater associated ion suppression. Analytica Chimica Acta 938: 114-122.
  • Tait K, Airs RL, Widdicombe CE, Tarran GA, Jones MR, Widdicombe S. 2015. Dynamic responses of the benthic bacterial community at the Western English Channel Observatory site L4 are driven by deposition of fresh phytodetritus. Progress in Oceanography 137: 546-558.
  • Steele DJ, Tarran GA, Widdicombe CE, Woodward EMS, Kimmance SA, Franklin DJ, Airs RL. 2015. Abundance of a chlorophyll-a precursor and the oxidation product hydroxychlorophyll-a during seasonal phytoplankton community progression in the Western English Channel. Progress In Oceanography 137: 434-445.
  • Bale NJ, Airs RL, Martin P, Lampitt RS, Llewellyn CA. 2015. Chlorophyll-a transformations associated with sinking diatoms during termination of a North Atlantic spring bloom. Marine Chemistry 172. 23-33.
  • Airs RL, Temperton B, Sambles C, Farnham G, Skill SC, Llewellyn CA. 2014. Chlorophyll f and chlorophyll d are produced in the cyanobacterium Chlorogloeopsis fritschii when cultured under natural light and near-infrared radiation. FEBS Letters 588 (20): 3770-3777. DOI: 0.1016/j.febslet.2014.08.026

Other activities

  • Member of NERC Peer Review College
  • Council member for Challenger Society for Marine Science