All aboard the carbon cruise

University of Miami students and researchers are blogging during a month-long expedition in the Gulf of Mexico to study ocean acidification.

An interdisciplinary and international team of scientists and students set sail aboard the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ship Ronald H. Brown on Tuesday, July 18 for a 36-day expedition in the Gulf of Mexico.

The researchers – including graduate student Joletta Silva and two recent alumni, Emma Pontes and Leah Chomiak, from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science – represent institutions from the United States, Mexico and Cuba.

The expedition, entitled the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon Cruise (GOMECC), is the third of such research cruises led by NOAA AOML (Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory) for its Ocean Acidification Program to better understand how ocean chemistry along U.S. coasts is changing in response to ocean acidification. This cruise is the first that will explore Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and is considered to be the most comprehensive ocean acidification cruise to date in the region.

The journey began in Key West and includes 11 transects, or lines from the coast out towards the center of the Gulf, with a total of 107 sampling stations. A CTD (connectivity, temperature and depth) probe is a research instrument that will be used to deploy 24 bottles to collect water samples in surface, near-shore and deeper waters. Each sample will be analyzed for salinity, oxygen, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, total alkalinity, pH level, partial pressure of carbon dioxide, dissolved organic matter, ocean color (to compare to satellite imaging) and microplankton community distributions.

Part of the cruise’s mission is to measure and analyze how ocean acidification is affecting marine life along the Gulf coast of the United States and Mexico, so samples of marine organisms—icthyoplankton (fish eggs and larvae) and pteropods—will also be collected during the research trip.

The more than two dozen researchers collaborating on this cruise are from the Rosenstiel School, NOAA AOML, CIMAS (Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies) at Rosenstiel, the National Park Service, the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, North Carolina State University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Southern Mississippi, and University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in the United States; ECOSUR (El Colegio de la Frontera Sur), CICESE (Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada), Universidad Autonoma de Baja California in Mexico; and CEAC (Centro de Estudios Ambientales de Cienfuegos) and GEOCUBA in Cuba.

Follow the research expedition here through August 21.

Jessica M. Castillo, University of Miami News, 24 July 2017. Article.

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