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Dr Frances E. Hopkins

Dr Frances E. Hopkins

Marine biogeochemist

fhop7/23/2024 12:10:57    |     +44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)
"Although invisible to the eye and detectable by us as only a slight odour on the sea breeze, DMS influences vital cloud formation processes, helping to naturally regulate Earth’s climate. After 15 years researching the production of DMS by tiny microbes in the surface ocean, I’m still amazed and inspired by this!"

Frances began her career at PML in 2009, following completion of her PhD under the supervision of Prof Peter Liss at the University of East Anglia. Her research focuses on the production of key marine trace gases in the surface ocean, primarily dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and halocarbons. Understanding the processes that lead to the production of these gases is critical to accurately predicting their flux to the atmosphere, and ultimately modelling the impact they have on Earth’s climate. Her research has tackled diverse angles of this topic, including the influence of ocean acidification on marine trace gas production, the production of DMS by corals during air exposure, the influence of DMS on the palatability of microplastics to copepods, as well as studies directly focusing on the marine biogeochemical production and cycling of DMS.

Beyond DMS biogeochemistry, she has an interest in understanding the potential health effects of human exposure to the marine environment, particularly in the context of inhalation of sea air. She co-led a recent pilot project assessing the role of the ‘smell of the sea’ in human ocean connectedness, and co-developed another recently funded project which will assess the effect of aerosol-associated marine biogenic compounds on human lung cells.

Frances has taken on the role of coordinator of impact activities for all research at PML relating to ‘Clean Seas’, within which she facilitates internal activities and discussion to maximise our impact on this key global challenge. Her role as coordinator is to ensure that PML researchers engage strategically with stakeholders and clearly communicate PML’s activities within this key challenge area to external audiences.

Frances actively engages in a variety of outreach activities. She was selected to present at the Exeter Soapbox Science event in June 2022 on "The smell of the sea, plankton, clouds and climate". She was recently featured in two BBC World Service radio programmes broadcast in May 2023 (Unexpected Elements (starts at 32:50) and CrowdScience) discussing various aspects of her research on climate-active gases and the composition of sea air.

Frances is an active member of PML’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee and was previously co-chair of PML’s Athena SWAN working group (2017-2022), a committee which drove forward gender equality initiatives at PML. She led PML’s successful application for Bronze accreditation in 2017. She is committed to supporting all staff and students to reach their full potential, and particularly those that face additional challenges relating to gender or other protected characteristics.

Frances also plays a key role in the Environmental Management Team, contributing to the development of PML’s environmental strategy and PML’s strategy to achieve net zero carbon. She co-manages the LEAF initiative at PML (Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework), working with lab managers across the organisation to improve the sustainability and efficiency of laboratories.


  • Constraining the Role of Sulfur in the Earth System (CARES), NERC Large Grant

  • Microbial degradation of DMSO in seawater, NERC Standard Grant

  • A multidisciplinary study of DMSP production and lysis – from enzymes to organisms to process modelling, NERC Standard Grant

  • Is bacterial DMS consumption dependent on methylamines in marine waters? NERC Standard Grant

  • Earth's coolest organsulfur molecule: understanding how agriculture can be more cooling to the climate, NERC/BBSRC Rapid Response Grant

  • Terrestrial DMSP: the forgotten source, NERC Standard Grant


Hopkins FE, Archer SD, Bell TG, Suntharalingam P, Todd JD. The biogeochemistry of marine dimethylsulfide. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. 2023 Jun;4(6):361-76.

FE Hopkins, SM Turner, PD Nightingale, M Steinke, D Bakker, PS Liss (2009) Ocean acidification and marine trace gas emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 107, 760. doi:10.1073/pnas.0907163107

SD Archer, SA Kimmance, JA Stephens, FE Hopkins, R Bellerby, K Schulz (2013) Contrasting responses to ocean acidification of DMS and its precursor DMSP in Arctic waters. Biogeosciences, 10, 1893–1908. doi:10.5194/bg-10-1893-2013

FE Hopkins, TG Bell, M Yang, DJ Suggett, M Steinke (2016). Air exposure of coral is a significant source of dimethylsulfide (DMS) to the atmosphere. Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep36031.

J Procter, FE Hopkins, E Fileman, P Lindeque (2019) Smells Good Enough To Eat: Dimethylsulfide (DMS) Enhances Copepod Ingestion Rate of Microplastics. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 138, 1–6. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.11.014

Recent publications

View more publications on our repository