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Professor Kevin Flynn

Professor Kevin Flynn

Plankton ecophysiology modeller

kjf5/18/2024 6:32:46    |     +44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)

I am a plankton ecologist, originally trained as an algal physiologist, who works primarily using simulation modelling approaches. I am especially interested in developing plankton digital twins, through which in silico experiments can be conducted to enhance mechanistic understanding and aid education and ecosystem management.


My work ranges from commercial-facing microalgal production to ocean acidification impacts, harmful algal blooms, microbial and biological carbon pumps, and especially over the last decade on the mixoplankton paradigm which sees an overturning of the conventional dichotomy of phytoplankton vs zooplankton.

My interests include viruses, bacteria, cyanobacteria, phytoplankton, mixoplankton, protist and metazoan zooplankton, stoichiometric ecology, allometry, toxins, allelopaths – anything to which simulation modelling may be applied to enhance understanding.

I work at PML on integrating ecophysiology into plankton functional type models and allied cross-disciplinary activities. A new platform has been developed for describing plankton physiology and behaviour and forms the basis for plankton digital twin developments. This combines system dynamics and systems biology concepts, offering scope to merge ‘omics and traditional rate measurements with simulation modelling.

I have a particular interest in developing teaching aids for young children through to aspiring modellers.


  • Problu (EU; 2023-2026) – developing education material for enhancing understanding and protection of aquatic ecosystems
  • Plankton digital twins (NERC; 2023-2024) – using expert witness validation approaches to designing new plankton research tools
  • DINOTROPHY (BBSRC; 2021-2025) – using deuterium in organic biomarkers as tools to investigate the role of marine mixotrophy in the global carbon cycle.
  • Understanding and modelling the Microbial Carbon Pump under changing nutrient concentrations and temperature (NERC; 2018-2022)
  • EnhanceMicroAlgae (EU H2020 Atlantic Realm; 2017-2020) – commercial-facing microalgal cultivation    
  • MixITiN (EU, ITN; 2017-2021) - Bringing the paradigm for marine pelagic production into the 21st century: incorporating mixotrophy into mainstream marine research
  • Pilots4U (EU H2020; 2017-2019) – commercial-facing microalgal biotechnology


  • Tillmann U, Mitra A, Flynn KJ, Larsson ME (2023) Mucus-trap-assisted feeding is a common strategy of the small mixoplanktonic Prorocentrum pervagatum and P. cordatum (Prorocentrales, Dinophyceae). Microorganisms 11, 1730.
  • Flynn KJ, Mitra A (2023) Feeding in mixoplankton enhances phototrophy increasing the potential for coastal water bloom-induced pH changes with ocean acidification. Journal of Plankton Research 45,
  • Flynn KJ, Raven JA (2023) Errata and re-visitation of “What is the limit for photoautotrophic plankton growth rates?” (Flynn and Raven, 2017). Journal of Plankton Research, fbad028,
  • Mitra A, Flynn KJ, Stoecker DK, Raven JA (2023) Trait trade-offs in phagotrophic microalgae: the mixoplankton conundrum, European Journal of Phycology, .
  • Mitra A, Flynn KJ (2023) Low rates of bacterivory enhances phototrophy and competitive advantage for mixoplankton growing in oligotrophic waters. Scientific Reports 13, 6900.
  • Mitra A, Caron DA, Faure E, Flynn KJ, Leles SG, Hansen PJ, McManus GB, Not F, Gomes HR, Santoferrara L, Stoecker DK, Tillmann U (2023) The Mixoplankton Database – diversity of photo-phago-trophic plankton in form, function and distribution across the global ocean. Journal or Eukaryote Microbiology 70
  • Flynn KJ, Torres R, Irigoien X, Blackford JC (2022) , Plankton digital twins—a new research tool, Journal of Plankton Research,
  • Anschütz A-A, Flynn, KJ, Mitra A (2022) Acquired phototrophy and its implications for bloom dynamics of the Teleaulax-Mesodinium-Dinophysis-complex. Frontiers in Marine Science doi:10.3389/fmars.2021.799358
  • Cormier MA, Berard J-B, Bougaran G, Trueman C, Mayor D, Lampitt R, Kruger N, Flynn KJ, Rickaby R (2022) Deuterium in Marine Organic Biomarkers: Toward a new tool for quantifying aquatic mixotrophy. New Phytologist doi:10.1111/nph.18023
  • Flynn KJ, Mitra A, Wilson WH, Kimmance SA, Clark DR, Pelusi A, Polimene L (2022) “Boom-and-busted-dynamics” of phytoplankton-virus interactions explain the paradox of the plankton. New Phytologist doi:10.1111/nph.18042
  • Ferreira GD, Romano F, Medić N, Pitta P, Hansen PJ, Flynn, KJ, Mitra A, Calbet A (2021) Mixoplankton interferences in dilution grazing experiments. Science Advances doi:10.1038/s41598-021-03176-0
  • Flynn KJ, Kimmance SA, Clark DR, Mitra A, Polimene L, Wilson W (2021) Modelling the effects of traits and abiotic factors on viral lysis in phytoplankton. Frontiers in Marine Science doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.667184
  • Flynn KJ, Speirs DC, Heath MR, Mitra A (2021) Subtle differences in the representation of consumer dynamics have large effects in marine food web models. Frontiers in Marine Science doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.638892
  • Leles SG, Bruggeman J, Polimene L, Blackford J, Flynn KJ, Mitra A (2021) Differences in physiology explain succession of mixoplankton functional types and affect carbon fluxes in temperate seas. Progress in Oceanography, 190, 102481
  • Mitra A, Flynn KJ (2021) HABs and the Mixoplankton Paradigm. Harmful Algae News doi:10.5281/zenodo.5109703
  • Silkin V, Fedorov A, Flynn KJ, Paramonov L, Pautova L (2021) Protoplasmic streaming of chloroplasts enables rapid photoacclimation in large diatoms. Journal of Plankton Research doi:10.1093/plankt/fbab071
  • Anschütz A-A, Flynn, KJ (2020) Niche separation between different functional types of mixoplankton: results from NPZ-style N-based model simulations. Marine Biology 167, 3 doi:10.1007/s00227-019-3612-3
  • Flynn KJ, Skibinski DOF (2020) Exploring evolution of maximum growth rates in plankton. Journal of Plankton Research doi:10.1093/plankt/fbaa038
  • Schneider LK, Flynn KJ, Herman PMJ, Troost TA, Stolte W (2020) Exploring the trophic spectrum: placing mixoplankton into marine protist communities of the Southern North Sea. Frontiers in Marine Science doi:10.3389/fmars.2020.586915
  • Flynn KJ, Mitra A, Anestis K, Anschütz AA, Calbet A, Ferreira GD, Gypens N, Hansen PJ, John U, Martin JL, Mansour J, Maselli M, Medić N, Norlin A, Not F, Pitta P, Ramano F, Saiz E, Schneider L, Stolte W, Traboni C (2019) Mixotrophic protists and a new paradigm for marine ecology: where does plankton research go now? Journal of Plankton Research doi:10.1093/plankt/fbz026
  • Leles SC, Mitra A, Flynn KJ, Tillmann U, Stoecker D, Jeong HJ, Burkholder J-A, Hansen PJ, Caron DA, Glibert PM, Hallegraef G, Raven J, Sanders RW, Zubkov M (2019) Sampling bias misrepresents the biogeographic significance of constitutive mixotrophs across global oceans. Global Ecology and Biogeography 28:418–428. doi:10.1111/geb.12853
  • Wells ML, Karlson B, Wulff A, Kudela R, Trick C, Asnaghi V, Berdalet E, Cochlan W, Davidson K, De Rijcke M, Dutkiewicz S, Hallegraeff G, Flynn KJ, Legrand C, Paerl H, Silke J, Suikkanen S, Thompson P, Trainer VL (2019) Future HAB science: Directions and challenges in a changing climate. Harmful Algae doi:10.1016/j.hal.2019.101632
  • Flynn KJ, Mitra A, Bode A (2018) Toward a mechanistic understanding of trophic structure: inferences from simulating stable isotope ratios. Marine Biology 165:147 doi:10.1007/s00227-018-3405-0
  • Flynn KJ, Skibinski DOF, Lindemann C (2018) Effects of growth rate, cell size, motion, and elemental stoichiometry on nutrient transport kinetics. PLoS Comput Biol 14: e1006118. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006118
  • Kenny P, Flynn KJ (2017) Physiology prevents commercially viable photoautotrophic production of microalgal biofuels. Journal of Applied Phycology doi:10.1007/s10811-017-1214-3 
  • Cripps G, Flynn KJ, Lindeque PK (2016) Ocean acidification affects the phyto-zoo plankton trophic transfer efficiency. PLOS ONE 11:e0151739. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0151739
  • Flynn KJ, Mitra A (2016) Why plankton modelers should reconsider using rectangular hyperbolic (Michaelis-Menten, Monod) descriptions of predator-prey interactions. Frontiers in Marine Science doi:10.3389/fmars.2016.00165
  • Flynn KJ, Clark DR, Mitra A, Fabian H, Hansen PJ, Glibert PM, Wheeler GL, Stoecker DK, Blackford JC, Brownlee C (2015) Ocean acidification with (de)eutrophication will alter future phytoplankton growth and succession. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20142604 doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.2604
  • Mitra A, Flynn KJ, Burkholder JM, Berge T, Calbet A, Raven JA, Granéli E, Hansen PJ, Stoecker DK, Thingstad F, Tillmann U, Våge S, Wilken S, Glibert PM, Zubkov MV (2014) The role of mixotrophic protists in the biological carbon pump. Biogeosciences, 11, 995-1005 doi:10.5194/bg-11-995-2014.
  • Flynn KJ, Stoecker DK, Mitra A, Raven JA, Glibert PM, Hansen PJ, Granéli E, Burkholder JM (2013) Misuse of the phytoplankton-zooplankton dichotomy: the need to assign organisms as mixotrophs within plankton functional types Journal of Plankton Research 35, 3-11 doi:10.1093/plankt/fbs062.

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