Phytoplankton are responsible for half of the photosynthesis on Earth and are key players in the global carbon cycle. These microscopic cells are found in a wide range of ecosystems, from ice-covered seas to oceanic deserts. Their ability to acclimate to such a wide range of environmental conditions is essential for sustaining marine ecosystems across the globe. Our research team investigates the diversity and physiology of phytoplankton over a range of marine systems, from the poles to the tropics. We use a variety of tools to do this: from molecular markers to earth-orbiting satellites. The aim of this work is to identify the inherent physiological and optical traits of phytoplankton that allow them to occupy such a diverse range of ecological niches. Our research also focuses on developing a better understanding of how the ocean’s microflora responds to changes in physical forcing so that we can predict future changes in their productivity and biogeography.