The Byrne lab goes West: three CMS students set sail on 45-day Pacific Ocean cruise

NOAA’s R/V Ronald H. Brown will carry the Byrne crew, as well as 26 other scientists, for the West Coast Acidification 2021 cruise. Photo: NOAA.
NOAA’s R/V Ronald H. Brown will carry the Byrne crew, as well as 26 other scientists, for the West Coast Acidification 2021 cruise. Photo: NOAA.

The NOAA West Coast Ocean Acidification (WCOA) cruise is part of a decades-long program that monitors chemical parameters all along the west coast of the United States, from Canada to Mexico. The major goal is to understand trends in the Pacific Ocean, with a specific focus on environmental parameters that influence ocean acidification – a major threat to ocean health, food security, economies, and more. The cruise departs for another trek this summer, along with three CMS students on board. Macarena Martín Mayor, Katelyn Schockman, and Kalla Fleger from Bob Byrnes’ lab study chemical oceanography and will be joining the action aboard the R/V Ronald H. Brown.

The team will sample the same 145 stations that have been sampled for decades. Of the 26 scientists on the cruise representing labs from all across the world, each group is tasked with a specific parameter to measure. These range from total alkalinity to inorganic carbon to nutrients. Like a puzzle, each group will piece together their speciality to create a broader picture of the chemical conditions in the Pacific Ocean.

The cohort from the Byrne’s lab will measure carbonate, a Byrne lab specialty, and then pH at different temperatures. As Schockman explains, “The standard is to measure pH at 25° Celsius. We then use calculations to determine what the pH actually is at in-situ ocean conditions.”

“For each station we will be measuring pH at the typical 25°C, and then at half the stations we will be measuring pH at low temperatures,” said Fleger. “We are trying to determine the effect low temperature has on measurements versus calculated measurements.”

The WCOA cruise is a long one: 45 days, from June 13-July 30, to cover 145 stations. It will be the first long-term cruise for Martín Mayor and Fleger, who said they are excited about the experience. 

It’s not a first for Schockman.

“Being on a long cruise with scientists from all over the world is unlike anything else. Everyone on the ship will be focused on some aspect of ocean acidification research, and everyone’s goal is to get good data,” said Schockman. “Everyone is literally eating and breathing science and trying to connect trends in the data. You just geek out on science for a month and a half!”   

The cruise is critical to understanding the factors that influence ocean acidification — and the open source data collected to date have been used to understand important trends in the Pacific Ocean.

Stay tuned as we receive updates from the crew throughout their journey – as internet permits!

Carlyn Scott, University of South Florida, 15 June 2021. Article.

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