First national meeting for U.S. ocean acidification researchers

First National Meeting for U.S. Ocean Acidification Researchers
Sarah Cooley, WHOI; Joan Kleypas, NCAR

A milestone was reached this spring toward building a strong ocean acidification (OA) research community in the U.S., when the first workshop for U.S. OA researchers was held on March 22-24, 2011, at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Over the past few years, several U.S. agencies have dedicated funding for ocean acidification research, although a U.S. national OA program to coordinate research, education, policy, and outreach is still being developed [National Research Council, 2010; ORRAP Ocean Acidification Task Force, 2011]. This meeting was designed to help begin to coordinate the rapidly growing U.S. OA research community, which now includes hundreds of workers from an expanding range of disciplines. Not only is building a strong U.S. OA research community an essential piece of the U.S. national OA program, but it is also crucial to organize it in ways that maximize coordination with established OA research programs in other nations (EPOCA, BIOACID, UKOARP, etc.).

This meeting was organized and hosted by the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program (OCB) and coordinated by OCB’s Ocean Acidification subcommittee (OCB-OA; www.us-ocb.org/about.html), and it was financially supported by the NSF, NOAA, USGS, EPA, and the Naval Postgraduate School. Meeting organizers worked with program managers from these agencies and NASA to invite representatives from all their funded OA research projects. The 112 meeting attendees included ecologists, paleoceanographers, instrumentation specialists, chemists, biologists of all types, socioeconomists, modelers, and communications specialists.

The goals for this workshop included: networking OA researchers to strengthen existing collaborations or develop new ones, minimizing unnecessary duplication of effort, building capacity by entraining new specialists and agency representatives, and identifying short- and long-term research goals. During the meeting, OCB-OA also hoped to promote effective data management, to improve communication with the public about OA, and to determine how OCB could best facilitate OA science.

The meeting agenda, presentations, and videos of plenary sessions are available on the meeting website (www.whoi.edu/workshops/OAPI2011), along with breakout reports and links to supplementary materials. Morning sessions reviewed OA science focusing around funded research areas: paleoceanography, proxies and modeling; observations and monitoring; physiological responses to OA; ecology and systems responses to OA; and biogeochemistry and modeling. Afternoon breakout sessions focused on four overarching topics: improving OA science through collaborations and leverage; connecting OA to society; scaling and modeling OA responses; and improving physiological and ecological OA research.

Although breakout groups tackled different lists of questions, they identified several common approaches that could help address present research challenges. These included activities such as promoting collaborations between natural and social scientists; maximizing use of physical facilities/infrastructure such as flowing seawater labs, ships of opportunity, the LTER network, and satellite resources; incorporating autonomous sampling technologies (e.g., gliders, floats, buoys); and pursuing research including non-oceanographic biological methods (e.g., “-omics,” behavioral, or evolutionary adaptation research, mechanistic ecosystem studies, and model systems). Across the breakout sessions, participants identified common obstacles as well: lack of customary interaction between natural scientists and social scientists; need for better ways to handle and convey uncertainty or different types of data; and need for funding to support larger-scale collaborative initiatives and interdisciplinary research less focused on traditional oceanography.

Attendees also began to identify potential collaborative OA research activities for the next five years. Highlights include:

  • Holding an interdisciplinary FOCE-like experiment
  • Assessing OA’s effects relative to other influences
  • Comparing sensitivity across systems using biological approaches like comparative phylogeography and biodiversity surveys
  • Quantifying fluxes and variability in particulate pools
  • Assembling a comprehensive global monitoring system
  • Bringing in social scientists and humanists
  • Developing cheap, user-friendly biological sensors
  • Determining the consequences of large pH change on the carbonate system

The meeting participants were extremely enthusiastic and dedicated to promoting top-quality OA research, as evidenced by vigorous discussions during the meeting, followed by more than 20 researchers volunteering to serve on the OCB-OA Subcommittee. The OCB OA Subcommittee is exploring ways to facilitate many of these multi-investigator activities, and we hope that this will be the first of many productive meetings for OA investigators in the United States.

National Research Council (2010), Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. [online] Available from: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12904#toc

ORRAP Ocean Acidification Task Force (2011), Ocean Acidification Task Force: Summary of Work Completed and Recommendations for ORRAP to convey to the IWG-OA, Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel. [online] Available from: http://www.nopp.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/OATF-REPORT-FINAL-4-21-11.pdf

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