Thursday, July 16, 2015

Welcome to our cruise blog!

Hello everyone,

Welcome to our cruise blog! This mission is part of the NOAA Ocean Acidification Monitoring Program. The OAP brings together a multi-faceted national network to understand and predict pH changes of the oceans and Great Lakes. Ocean Acidification (OA) refers to gradual decreases in ocean pH and other chemical changes caused primarily by uptake of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide. Human activity, like the burning of fossil fuels and land use change, is causing OA to proceed at a much faster rate than normal.

During the last decade, OA has become a pressing concern for many fisheries and ecosystems in vulnerable areas that already have naturally higher concentrations of CO2, like coastal areas, upwelling zones, and colder high latitude areas. To a certain extent, all of these vulnerabilities are characteristics of the Gulf of Alaska. On top of that, this area is home to a large commercial salmon fishing industry. Salmon feed extensively on pteropods, a tiny shelled organism that is highly vulnerable to ocean acidification.

Another chemical change occurring with ocean acidification is a reduction in carbonate ions, which pteropods use to build shells. When concentrations of carbonate are low enough, it becomes very difficult for pteropods to build shells, and eventually, existing shells start to dissolve.

On this mission, a multidisciplinary team is making broad-scale observations of pH and carbonate chemistry directly alongside biological monitoring. It’s a unique opportunity to see whether or not patterns in the biology are related to the chemistry of the water. It’s also the first time we’ve been able to survey the whole Gulf of Alaska coast at once. This is a really unique opportunity to get a gulf-wide ‘snapshot’ of the region’s carbonate chemistry during this time of year.

Throughout the mission, we’ll be blogging about our everyday activities, as well as highlighting a couple of the specific projects we’re pursuing. We are particularly encouraging our new sailors and young student scientists to share their experiences with you.

To start off, we have had excellent weather during our transit up from Seattle—bright sunshine during the day. We even passed a pod of humpback whales yesterday! After our long journey north, we should reach our first station at about 1700 PST.

Fair winds and following seas;


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