November 2001

From University of Rhode Island

URI oceanographers receive $900,000 from NSF to study carbon cycling in Arctic Ocean

Two URI oceanographers have been awarded $900,000 by the National Science Foundation as part of a $5.4 million, 12-institution, 5-year collaborative research program in the Arctic Ocean. Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) chemist S. Bradley Moran will receive $565,000 and biologist Robert G. Campbell will receive $332,000 to study carbon cycling in the western Arctic Ocean.

The research program will focus on the Chukchi Sea, just above the Bering Strait between Alaska and the Former Soviet Union, and the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska and western Canada. This part of the Arctic Ocean is profoundly influenced by the northward flow of nutrient-rich Pacific Ocean water that enters the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas through the Bering Strait. This flow, a key component of the global ocean circulation, transports fresh water from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Arctic Ocean while also sustaining some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.

The group of scientists will examine a number of physical and biological processes with the objective of assessing how these processes are being influenced by global climate change. Since global change is likely to be most pronounced in polar regions, the effects of the reduction in sea ice could significantly affect the duration of the seasons, the circulation patterns, the flow of nutrients, and the entire food web in the region.

Moran's work will quantify the magnitude and seasonal variability of the export flux of particulate organic carbon from the shelf and slope waters of the Chucki and Beaufort Sea to the underlying sediments and deep interior Arctic. This will be accomplished using the naturally occurring radionuclides 234Th (half-life 24.1 days) and 210Pb (half-life 22 years), which are used as tracers of particle sinking through the water column. Using large-volume pumps and sediment box cores, Moranís group will collect samples on each of the four planned expeditions aboard the U.S. Coast Guard ice-breaker Healy. The samples will then be returned to GSO for analysis.

Campbellís research concerns planktonic food web interactions in the Western Arctic shelf and basin regions. He and a team of scientists from Oregon State University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will analyze the impact of zooplankton feeding processes on the fluxes and exchanges of carbon in these waters. The analysis will help them understand how changing ecosystem structure, such as might occur during climate change, will alter the functioning of planktonic food webs, the basic food source in Arctic Ocean ecosystems.

A resident of Kingston, Moran received a B.Sc. in chemistry from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His research at GSO, where he is an associate professor of oceanography, focuses on radionuclides as tracers of scavenging and particle cycling, marine colloids, solid-solution interactions of trace metals in seawater, groundwater input to coastal waters, and natural and artificial radionuclides in Arctic rivers and ocean basins.

Campbell, an assistant marine research scientist, received a B.S. in natural resources and a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. He studies zooplankton vital rate processes, including feeding, growth, and reproduction. He combines laboratory studies and field measurements to quantify these processes and determine the role of zooplankton in planktonic ecosystems. He is a resident of Narragansett.

The URI Graduate School of Oceanography is one of the country's largest marine science education programs, and one of the world's foremost marine research institutions. Founded in 1961 in Narragansett, RI, GSO serves a community of scientists who are researching the causes of and solutions to such problems as acid rain, global warming, air and water pollution, oil spills, overfishing, and coastal erosion. GSO is home to the Coastal Institute, the Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Slater Center for Ocean Technology, and the National Sea Grant Library.












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