A five-week research cruise along the West Coast of the United States hopes to expand our understanding of ocean acidification and the health of coastal waters.Loaded with scientists and gear, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Research Vessel Ronald H. Brown left the San Diego Naval Base on May 6 for a five-week West Coast Ocean Acidification cruise. The crew will travel from Baja, California, to British Columbia collecting physical and biogeochemical measurements to further an understanding of the complex processes at play in coastal waters as a result of ocean acidification.
Once a little-understood process, researchers now know that excess carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean creating corrosive waters that affect myriad species and habitats – from the pterapods that many ocean critters eat to the coral reefs that are vital to the health of our oceans.
The cruise is a collaborative effort with 17 institutions from five different countries partnering to gather and interpret the data collected. The chief scientist for the first leg of the trip is Dr. Simone Alin from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab.
“Collaborators both onboard and onshore will assess the health of marine ecosystems in the context of the environmental conditions we observe,” she writes. “As on cruises in 2011–2013, these efforts will include studies of harmful algal bloom species and toxin concentrations, as well as analyses of pteropod abundance, diversity, physiology, and calcification.”
In the trip blog for the voyage, Ocean Acidification Program Manager Erica Ombres explains that this trip will gather data similar to that which was collected in 2013 to get a better sense of rapidly changing conditions. Ombres adds, “It’s vital that oceanographers revisit these waters regularly to understand trends and generate models to predict how ocean acidification will affect us over the next several decades.”
Stay tuned for more Earthzine coverage of this voyage and the results of its efforts.