Member Highlight: Research Expeditions: Bringing Scientists Together

2018-06-11T09:50:58+00:00 June 11, 2018|

Dr. John Lehrter recently wrapped up research expedition number two of 2018. Both delivering different samples to analyze, but all in a quest to answer the larger question. How does the ocean work?

(From Dauphin Island Sea Lab) — “It’s like being invited to another lab,” Dr. Lehrter said. “ There’s a great deal of collaboration, and a lot of these big questions require teams of people with different areas of expertise.”

Dr. Lehrter’s April to May cruise, sponsored by the Naval Research Laboratory, included the Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University of South Alabama, the University of Delaware, Florida International University, and Florida Atlantic University.

His January cruise also included four universities on board: the University of Delaware, Louisiana State University, Louisiana Universities Consortium, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University of South Alabama.

“We are all using one basic water sample,” Dr. Lehrter’s lab member Mai Fung said. “But that sample can be used in so many ways by different researchers to understand interactions between biology, chemistry, and physics.”

Each expedition provided a chance to study different areas by Dr. Lehrter and his team, Mai Fung (Ph.D. Student) and Alex Hagemeyer (M.S. Student).

In January, the DISL/USA group looked at ocean acidification and hypoxia and understanding how biology affects geochemistry in the coastal environment. This expedition was the fifth in a series. A sixth similar expedition is scheduled for the fall.

Ocean acidification occurs as the pH level drops (hydrogen ion increases) within the ocean. The Mississippi River affects this process as it dumps nitrogen and phosphorus along the Louisiana Shelf. The team measures the primary production and respiration of the Louisiana shelf, which are stimulated by nitrogen and phosphorus, by incubating water samples from throughout the water column for 24 hours. The net result of  the production and respiration processes contributes to coastal ocean acidification in combination with the global uptake of carbon dioxide that is driving open ocean acidification. The team also looked at sediment samples from a few stations to measure fluxes of carbon dioxide, pH, and oxygen. By looking at the flux, the team can determine what is coming out of the sediment and into the water column.

Dr. Lehrter said similar processes are happening in other coastal regions. By understanding primary production, respiration, ocean acidification, and hypoxia within the coastal region, the results may be applied globally to…

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