Chemical oceanographer joins Scripps faculty

Andreas Andersson expands scope of Scripps ocean acidification research

Scripps Institution of Oceanography/University of California, San Diego

Andreas Andersson, who has done extensive research on the effects of ocean acidification on the coral reefs of Bermuda, has joined the faculty of the Geosciences Research Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. He will serve as an assistant professor.

Andersson comes to Scripps from Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, where he retains status as a principal investigator of the Bermuda Ocean Acidification and Coral Reef Investigation (BEACON), a project to understand the effects of changing ocean chemistry on coral reefs over various space- and timescales. As ocean acidification — a change in seawater pH caused by the oceans’ uptake of carbon dioxide beyond natural levels due to fossil fuel use — becomes the subject of broader interest in several natural science disciplines, Andersson expects to collaborate with a wide spectrum of marine biologists, and physical and chemical oceanographers at Scripps.

“To fully understand the effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems, an interdisciplinary approach is required that carefully considers the interactions and feedbacks that exist between physical, chemical, biological and even geological processes,” said Andersson. “The more we learn about this problem, the more important and complex these interactions appear to be. The broad range and high level of expertise available at Scripps provide a unique environment to address this challenging issue, and I am very much looking forward to be part of this.”

Andersson’s continuing research will focus on exploring the feedbacks that exist between seawater chemistry and biological processes, but he will also be measuring the reactivity of different types of calcium carbonate minerals, the compound produced by corals and shelled organisms to form their exoskeletons. Some ocean acidification researchers have projected that acidification trends might begin to cause net erosion of coral reefs in this century as the calcium carbonate deteriorates faster than marine calcifiers can grow them. Certain compounds such as magnesium calcite could be especially vulnerable, said Andersson.

Andersson said knowledge of dissolution rates is essential to understand when reefs throughout the world will reach such thresholds. Andersson plans to create lab experiments to measure dissolution rates and to distinguish among different types of dissolution that take place in nature.

Beyond ocean acidification, Andersson also studies the carbon chemistry of large-scale ocean features known as subtropical mode waters, pools of water that form seasonally during cooling events and then become trapped under the seasonal thermocline – a layer in the water column of rapidly changing temperature and density that separates the well-mixed surface layer from the layer below. Subtropical mode waters may act as short term sinks of anthropogenic CO2 and are also important in regulating the nutrient balance, and hence, primary production in the subtropical gyres.

Andersson received his doctorate in chemical oceanography from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2006. He subsequently performed one year of postdoctoral research at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and since 2008 has been an independent assistant scientist there.

Robert Monroe, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Announcements, 1 September 2011. Article.

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