URI oceanographers receive $900,000 from NSF to study carbon cycling in Arctic Ocean

Two URI oceanographers have been awarded $900,000 by the National Science Foundation as part of a $5.4 million, 12-institution, 5-year collaborative research program in the Arctic Ocean. Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) chemist S. Bradley Moran will receive $565,000 and biologist Robert G. Campbell will receive $332,000 to study carbon cycling in the western Arctic Ocean.

The research program will focus on the Chukchi Sea, just above the Bering Strait between Alaska and the Former Soviet Union, and the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska and western Canada. This part of the Arctic Ocean is profoundly influenced by the northward flow of nutrient-rich Pacific Ocean water that enters the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas through the Bering Strait. This flow, a key component of the global ocean circulation, transports fresh water from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Arctic Ocean while also sustaining some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.

The group of scientists will examine a number of physical and biological processes with the objective of assessing how these processes are being influenced by global climate change. Since global change is likely to be most pronounced in polar regions, the effects of the reduction in sea ice could significantly affect the duration of the seasons, the circulation patterns, the flow of nutrients, and the entire food web in the region.

Moran's work will quantify the magnitude and seasonal variability of the export flux of particulate organic carbon from the shelf and slope waters of the Chucki and Beaufort Sea to the underlying sediments and deep interior Arctic. This will be accomplished using the naturally occurring radionuclides 234Th (half-life 24.1 days) and 210Pb (half-life 22 years), which are used as tracers of particle sinking through the water column. Using large-volume pumps and sediment box cores, Morans group will collect samples on each of the four planned expeditions aboard the U.S. Coast Guard ice

Contact: Lisa Cugini
University of Rhode Island

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