Kim Yates, Biogeochemist, at the St. Petersburg Field Center, was recently awarded venture capital funds for the development and testing of environmental isolation chambers that enable in-situ monitoring of geochemical changes associated with water-column and benthic processes. This is the first venture capital award for the St. Petersburg Field Center.
During the past year, Kim, in collaboration with Bob Halley and Lisa Robbins (University of South Florida-Tampa), constructed prototypes of two chamber systems.
The first, an In-Situ Biogeochemical Analysis System (I.B.A.S.), entraps and partially or completely isolates microparticles such as sediments, microbes, and macromolecules in the water column and in the air column above. This enables 24-hour continuous monitoring of changes in geochemical parameters associated with microparticle/water-column interactions, and simultaneous measurement of air/sea gas fluxes (CO2, O2, etc.).
The second system, a Submersible Habitat for Analyzing Reef Quality (S.H.A.R.Q.), isolates a mass of water overlying a large area (12 m2) of benthic substrate from surrounding water, enabling 24-hour continuous monitoring of changes in geochemistry associated with benthic activity such as biogenic sediment production and biological metabolism.
The I.B.A.S. will facilitate in-situ investigations on water-column processes, such as water-column productivity, contaminant transport and binding in sediments, effects of sediment resuspension on water-column geochemistry, diagenetic alteration of sediment and organic macromolecules, microbial mineralization, pathogenic microbes and their relation to nutrient fluxes, plankton bloom dynamics and chemistry, and contaminant/microbe interactions.
The S.H.A.R.Q. will enable community-scale monitoring of geochemistry associated with benthic processes in a variety of habitats, including reef communities, seagrass beds, and algal mats.
Both the I.B.A.S. and S.H.A.R.Q. systems provide a mechanism for in-situ alteration of environmental parameters (such as CO2, turbidity, nutrients, temperature, salinity, etc.) for investigations on the response of water-column and benthic processes to environmental stress resulting from climate change and anthropogenic activity.
These prototypes have been successfully tested in coastal waters near St. Petersburg and in Florida Bay, and will be implemented in a Geochemical Productivity Monitoring Program to measure carbonate and organic sediment production in Florida Bay. As part of a joint effort between Geological and Biological Resource Divisions' Global Change Programs, and the University of South Florida, Yates and Halley have proposed to initiate a similar program using I.B.A.S. and S.H.A.R.Q. technology to assess the relationship between carbonate sediment and organic carbon production, and environmental health in reef systems in the Florida Keys, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hawaii.
Yates is currently applying for patents on the I.B.A.S. and S.H.A.R.Q. systems. She will continue development of these systems for use in long-term geochemical monitoring efforts, perform a series of laboratory tests to calibrate each system, and continue field trials to assess potential applications of the I.B.A.S. and S.H.A.R.Q. in open ocean, coastal, estuarine, and lacustrine ecosystem studies.
in this issue: Western Region Benthic Habitat Project
Venture Capital Award