Monterey, CA, United States
Monterey, CA, United States

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Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 520.73K | Year: 2015

Phytoplankton are aquatic, single-celled plants that lie at the heart of the global cycling of carbon between the atmosphere and the oceans. Like other plants, phytoplankton require sunlight and nutrients to grow and flourish. However, in the ocean sunlight is confined to the upper few tens of metres, while nutrient concentrations are low at the sea surface and greatest at depths of a kilometre or more. The growth of phytoplankton is thus fundamentally dependent on processes that transfer nutrients from depth up to the sunlit surface. Over the mid latitudes the problem of acquiring nutrients appears to be particularly stark. The winds at mid latitudes provide a widespread downward transport of water, which inhibits the transfer of nutrient-rich deeper waters up into the sunlit, surface waters. Thus, one might expect much of the mid latitude ocean to be a desert due to a lack of nutrients. However, phytoplankton growth in the mid latitude ocean is more than might initially be expected, and is globally very important as it drives about half of the oceans biological removal of carbon out of the atmosphere. Oceanographers have calculated the amount of nutrient required to support this growth, based upon the concentrations of inert tracers in the upper ocean. However, adding together the known nutrient supplies falls significantly short of this total nutrient requirement. Hence, there is a conundrum as to how the biological growth over the mid latitude ocean is sustained. If we want to understand how carbon is cycled between the atmosphere and oceans, and how it affects our climate, we need to answer this problem. In this proposal, we address the problem of how deep nutrients are transported into the surface waters in mid-latitudes. We propose to test a new view: tides passing over the mid-Atlantic ridge generate enhanced turbulence and mixing, which in turn provides a nutrient supply to the upper thermocline waters. These nutrients are then transported horizontally along density surfaces over the western side of the basin, probably being swept along the Gulf Stream and eventually passing into the winter mixed surface layer. When this surface layer shallows and warms in spring, the nutrients are then available to the phytoplankton. The work plan involves two main components. We will carry out a field programme collecting measurements of the turbulence and nutrient concentrations over and adjacent to the mid-Atlantic ridge. This fieldwork will involve collecting data from a novel long-term moored array of instruments on the ridge along with a focused 5 week research cruise. Our work involves sampling sufficiently quickly to be able to resolve tidal changes in currents and mixing over the ridge: this has never been done before, and we have brought together scientists with expertise in tidal measurements in shallower shelf seas with others who are expert in deep ocean mixing and transports in order to do this. The 2nd component of our work will use computer models of circulation in the Atlantic to explore the wider implications of the fieldwork observations, allowing us to decide whether or not mixing over the mid-Atlantic ridge really does provide enough nutrients to explain the phytoplankton production in the mid-latitude N Atlantic.

Vrijenhoek R.C.,Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography | Year: 2013

Though not directly dependent on photosynthesis, deep-sea chemosynthetic communities have not been sheltered from catastrophic changes affecting Earth's photic zone. Instead, the constituent animals may be particularly vulnerable to large climatic changes that have historically affected ocean temperatures and circulation patterns. Chemosynthetic animals occupy narrow redox zones, mostly at hydrothermal vents, hydrocarbon seeps, or sites of organic deposition where subsurface fluids laden with reduced gases (e.g., sulfides, methane, hydrogen) meet oxygenated seawater. Dependence on chemolithoautotrophic bacteria as primary producers may render these deep-sea communities particularly susceptible to climatic changes that alter the breadth of the oxic/anoxic interface. The fossil record clearly reveals major transitions of chemosynthetic faunas during the middle to late Mesozoic, failing to support prior hypotheses that these environments harbor an extraordinary number of ancient relics and living fossils. The molecular phylogenetic analyses summarized herein support Cenozoic (<65. Myr old) radiations for most of the dominant invertebrate taxa now occupying these habitats. Although stem ancestors for many of the mollusks, annelids and crustaceans found at vents and seeps survived the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) extinction event, their contemporary crown taxa radiated mostly after the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), which led to a widespread anoxic/dysoxic event in the world's deep-ocean basins. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Vrijenhoek R.C.,Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2010

Deep-sea hydrothermal vents provide ephemeral habitats for animal communities that depend on chemosynthetic primary production. Sporadic volcanic and tectonic events destroy local vent fields and create new ones. Ongoing dispersal and cycles of extirpation and colonization affect the levels and distribution of genetic diversity in vent metapopulations. Several species exhibit evidence for stepping-stone dispersal along relatively linear, oceanic, ridge axes. Other species exhibit very high rates of gene flow, although natural barriers associated with variation in depth, deep-ocean currents, and lateral offsets of ridge axes often subdivide populations. Various degrees of impedance to dispersal across such boundaries are products of species-specific life histories and behaviours. Though unrelated to the size of a species range, levels of genetic diversity appear to correspond with the number of active vent localities that a species occupies within its range. Pioneer species that rapidly colonize nascent vents tend to be less subdivided and more diverse genetically than species that are slow to establish colonies at vents. Understanding the diversity and connectivity of vent metapopulations provides essential information for designing deep-sea preserves in regions that are under consideration for submarine mining of precious metals. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES | Award Amount: 75.00K | Year: 2016

The Arctic region has unique atmospheric chemistry leading to both positive and negative human health impacts, such as the depletion of ground-level ozone and the deposition of mercury. Atmospheric carbon dioxide uptake into sea water, moderated by the time-varying amount of sea ice cover, causes acidification of Arctic Ocean waters with potentially important impacts on the marine ecosystem. One expects that the atmosphere and its chemistry will respond in a complex manner to sea ice change and Arctic warming, but the science community lacks the ability to make predictions with confidence given only basic mechanistic understanding of the relevant processes. The O-Buoy Chemical Network project was funded under an Arctic Observing Network grant to observe atmospheric chemicals, meteorology, and sea-ice properties that can improve our understanding of the relevant processes and thus improve predictability of scenarios of future climate. That project has deployed fifteen autonomous buoys measuring three sentinel atmospheric chemical species, each for roughly a year?s time, spread across the Arctic Ocean, providing detailed, high-time-resolution data relevant to understanding the Arctic atmosphere?s chemistry in relation to sea ice. In this project, the science team will synthesize, interpret, and generate fundamental understanding from the O-Buoy network data. In addition, GEOS-Chem modeling combined with the O-Buoy measurements will be used to develop a region wide understanding of the relationship between the Arctic atmosphere and sea ice.

This project will contribute to STEM manpower development in a number of ways. It will provide support for an early career scientist during the formative years of his career. It will support the training of three Ph.D. students and engage multiple undergraduate students. Efforts will be made to draw these latter students from groups under-represented in the STEM fields by leveraging the resources of the Dartmouth College Women in Science Program (WISP) and the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) at the University of Alaska. Outreach to the K - gray community will be enabled through leveraging of existing programs such as the NSF-funded Next Generation WeatherBlur Project, the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratorys summer science camp for New Hampshire middle school students, the University of Alaskas annual Spring Science Potpourri open house, the weekly Café Scientifique in Boothbay Harbor, Maine: a summer lecture series that promotes public engagement with cutting-edge scientific research, and the extensive web presence of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

The Arctic Oceans overlying atmosphere is characterized by production of reactive halogen oxidizers from sea salts that lead to depletion of ground-level ozone and deposition of mercury. This production is believed to be modulated by the state of the sea ice cover. This project will answer three specific science questions relevant to the overarching question How do changes in the Arctic Ocean environment, especially sea ice, affect the atmosphere? via statistical analysis and modeling approaches. Statistical methods will test and improve process understanding while modeling approaches will be used to improve quantification of gas exchange fluxes with the Arctic Ocean through the fractured, drifting, sea ice and to predict fluxes of reactive halogen oxidizers and their precursors from sea ice. These modeling exercises make full use of the data from the O-Buoys covering the Arctic Ocean region from 2009-2016+, a period which has had a great deal of sea ice variability and reduced sea ice compared to historical averages. The three specific questions constituting the foci for this project are:
Q1: Under what conditions are carbon dioxide air-ice-ocean fluxes important causes of atmospheric carbon dioxide variability over the Arctic Ocean and, conversely, when is long-range transport important?
Q2: How do Arctic Ocean sea ice, snow, and vertical mixing conditions affect major atmospheric oxidants (ozone and reactive halogens)?
Q3: How do interannual variability and long-term declines in sea ice affect atmospheric contaminants in the Arctic?

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: OCEAN TECH & INTERDISC COORDIN | Award Amount: 837.82K | Year: 2015

Funding is provided to continue operations and maintence of the Maintenance of the Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS). The MARS cabled observatory provides a deep-water facility for testing and development and is a compelling solution for many ocean science experiments. MBARI has integrated the MARS Observatory into the Monterey Bay Aquarium Discovering Monterey Canyon auditorium program as well as in the new MBARI exhibit. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has over one million visitors a year, thereby providing wide exposure for MARS and OOI to the public. The EARTH Project, a science teacher outreach effort, has used MARS as a tool at over 20 presentations to high school educators.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) installed a cabled test bed and has been operating the Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS) since MARS became operational November 10, 2008. The purpose of this proposal is to provide continued funding for operations and maintenance costs of MARS.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: OCEAN TECH & INTERDISC COORDIN | Award Amount: 152.13K | Year: 2017

The oceans midwater realm is the next frontier for underwater robots. The mesopelagic or twilight zone encompasses depths from 200 to 1000 meters where sunlight is dim. This vast region plays a key role in regulating ocean chemistry and biology, which in turn strongly effects global climate. The mesopelagic zone holds much of our planets fish populations as well as poorly understood processes that couple the ocean surface to the seafloor including vertical fluxes of plankton, organic and inorganic particles, bubbles, and droplets. Mesopelagic features are often mobile, patchy, and ephemeral, so surveys and sampling can be very difficult. Recent studies have found that mesopelagic biomass including fish are dramatically underestimated, yet investigations of patterns and processes in this region are strongly constrained by available technology.

This program will produce a unique new robot that will enable unprecedented scientific access to midwater environments, complementing existing survey and sampling tools. The robot will use cameras, lights, and oceanographic sensors to autonomously track slow-moving individual targets such as migrating mid-water animals, descending particles, and rising bubbles and droplets without disturbing those targets. It will also have the ability to detect and follow fine-scale oceanographic features such as thin layers that hold critical nutrients. Finally, the robot will take samples utilizing on-board intelligence to determine precisely when and where to sample. Under this program, the robot will be built and tested under a collaboration between the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Stanford University, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The deep sea is more than 90 percent of the inhabitable space on Earth, yet life there is largely a mystery to science. Ctenophores, also known as comb jellies, are marine predators found in all oceans, inhabiting both deep and shallow seas. Although fragile and difficult to study, they are biologically important, in part because they appear to have been the first group of animals to split off from all other organisms during evolution, even before sponges and jellyfish. Over evolutionary time, many marine organisms have transitioned their home ranges to and from the deep sea despite the tremendous differences between these two habitats, including light, temperature, and hydrostatic pressure. Such habitat shifts required dramatic genetic and physiological changes to these animal lineages over time. The relationships between comb jelly species indicate that species from a variety of different families have evolved to live and thrive in the deep sea. This project will compare closely related deep and shallow species at biochemical, physiological and genetic levels to understand how these transitions came about. It will answer questions about the fundamental mechanisms of animal evolution and develop publicly available tools for analyzing genomic data sets. It will result in the training of cutting-edge techniques for two PhD students, a postdoc, two masters students, and numerous undergraduates. Public outreach involving biodiversity in the deep sea and gelatinous animals will help educate and inspire appreciation of marine life.

The main objective of this project is to understand evolution and diversification using cutting edge molecular analyses to investigate the deep-sea habitat as the generating force of novel biological adaptations. Ctenophore specimens will be collected using blue-water SCUBA in surface waters and remotely operated submarines in the deep sea to generate complementary physiological and genomic data across the full phylogenetic and functional diversity of ctenophores. With samples taken across a range of habitats from shallow tropical waters to temperate bathypelagic zone, the team will measure physiological capabilities and sequence transcriptomes and genomes. This project will develop novel algorithms to identify genes involved in depth adaptation and examine the genetic events that underlie physiological tolerances and adaptations to high hydrostatic pressures in the deep sea. To confirm the theory-based predictions of how gene sequence affects the properties of enzymes, proteins will be expressed and characterized in the lab. Collaborations between the students, postdocs and PIs involved in this project will substantially enhance an interdisciplinary workforce trained in both classical and cutting edge skills needed for contemporary biodiversity investigations.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Dimensions of Biodiversity | Award Amount: 848.66K | Year: 2016

Many organisms, from humans to microbes, need to acquire vitamins by ingesting them as food or taking them up directly from the environment. Vitamins are important to individual organisms, but they also have the potential to alter the health and productivity of entire ecosystems. This project will explore the production and consumption of vitamin B1 (thiamin) by planktonic cells that are the base of the ocean food chain. It will also examine the way that different microorganisms may interact harmoniously and/or competitively in metabolizing thiamin and similar molecules. A network analysis of data will help determine the role that these substances play in controlling microbial biodiversity and photosynthesis in sea water, and the response of microorganisms to changing ocean conditions. This project will also train postdoctoral scholars, graduate students and underdergraduates, and will support a teacher professional development program that prepares low-income, historically underrepresented, and other educationally underserved students from rural areas to graduate from high school, enroll and succeed in higher education, and pursue STEM careers.

Plankton evolved diverse strategies to acquire thiamin, including salvaging thiamin-related compounds from the environment. This project will: 1) survey metabolic adaptions related to thiamin in plankton, using comparative genomics and evolution (high throughput DNA sequencing); 2) test important functional predictions using cultures and analytical chemistry (chemostats and mass spectrometry); 3) measure plankton interactions in natural and artificially stimulated phytoplankton blooms. This investigation will join the oceanographic cruises of two major field campaigns in the North Atlantic Ocean. The results will be integrated using several computational approaches to interpret variations in microbial community structure, the role of biochemical, genomic and taxonomic diversity in maintaining biodiversity patterns of todays oceans, as well as potential future oceans, and microbial networks. Specific aspects of thiamin metabolism pathways will be explored in the context of understanding microbial chemical interactions. These different levels of biodiversity and thiamin cycling will be investigated across transitions between productive phytoplankton blooms and the stratified, oligotrophic conditions that typify the warmer oceans predicted under several environmental change scenarios.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 2.36M | Year: 2014

The PIs request funding to design, build, integrate, field test, and make available a stable shared-use instrument called that Multiple Vehicle EcoGenomic Automated Sampler (MiVEGAS), for a broad community of microbial oceanographers across the United States. The MiVEGAS is a novel instrument comprised of an integrated robot system that can automatically and adaptively survey, sample and preserve different size classes of microbial plankton. Deployments can range from a few days to over three weeks. The robot system can be launched from shore unattended by ships. It can survey and sample to depths of 300 m, with an operational range exceeding 1000 kilometers and an endurance of greater than 10 days. The MiVEGAS instrument has the potential to provide capabilities that no other instrument available today, and will provide new ways to observe and characterize diverse microbial plankton, enabling correlation of oceanographic parameters with microbial diversity and activity at high spatial and temporal resolution. The joint development effort is a collaboration between the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and the Center for Microbial Ecology: Research and Education (C-MORE), a multi-institutional NSF-sponsored Science and Technology Center.

Broader Impacts:

With the proposed development there are many excellent opportunities for training and development of students and technicians. The combined technology has the potential to collect extremely useful data. The knowledge gained will be fundamental to our understanding of productivity in the oceans and of climate change; the proposal will foster interdisciplinary interactions among engineers, machinists, oceanographers, molecular biologists, genomicists, and microbiologists; and attention to minority and educational outreach is appropriate. Both institutions have a strong background supporting education and research and have existing mechanisms to engage students ranging from middle school to graduate school including women and underrepresented groups, including naïve islanders.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute | Date: 2015-02-12

A compact flow-through water collection and processing device includes a configurable fluidic path through multiple flow-through sampling cartridges connected to a distribution valve ring. Simultaneous parallel and/or serial flow paths may be controllably selected, allowing the cartridges in the flow paths to collect material suspended or dissolved in the water flowing through the flow path.

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