Communications Awards Recognize Ocean Chemistry Topics
Leading scientists share research, tools, and findings with critical audiences
[Reprinted from NEWSWAVE, NEWS FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR: OCEANS, COASTS AND GREAT LAKES, Winter 2014.]
Understanding Mercury Sources and Cycling
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) awarded the Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communications to research geochemist David Krabbenhoft of the USGS Wisconsin Water Science Center for his monumental contributions in effectively communicating the science of mercury and continuing diverse work with ongoing, multiagency research on aquatic mercury.
Krabbenhoft has educated an international audience on the deleterious effects of mercury in the environment and was instrumental in crafting a binding international treaty for the United Nations (UN) on reducing man-made mercury emissions. This treaty was signed by 140 nations.
Together with Congress, the media, State and local officials, other Federal agencies, members of the public, and international agencies such as the UN, Krabbenhoft’s efforts have increased awareness of the dangers of mercury, as well as improved the research in understanding the sources and fates of mercury contamination. In the past 23 years, Dave has authored or coauthored more than 100 papers on mercury in the environment, and in 2006, served as co-chair for the 8th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant. He helped establish the USGS’s Mercury Research Laboratory in 1994.
[See a Sound Waves story about some of Krabbenhoft’s research, “Landmark Study Demonstrates How Methylmercury, Known to Contaminate Seafood, Forms in the Ocean”.]
Carbon Chemistry App “CO2calc”
The USGS also recognized CO2calc, a new mobile app, with a USGS Shoemaker communications award. USGS scientist Lisa Robbins and her team developed the app to be used by students, scientists, or the citizen scientist to calculate CO2 parameters in water from a mobile device, streamlining field operations by eliminating the need for bulky computing equipment that was needed in the past. [See related Sound Waves article, "CO2calc Will Assist Studies of Ocean Chemistry."]
The tool is just part of the work being done by scientists at the USGS in St. Petersburg, Florida, as they collaborate with the University of South Florida (USF) researching the issue of ocean acidification in the Arctic Ocean [see http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/ocean-acidification/].
Ocean acidification is a significant threat to marine life due to the lowering of pH in ocean water due to the uptake of excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. As oceanic pH lowers, marine biota, particularly corals and shellfish, have a harder time making their shells. Thinner, more brittle shells could lead to increased predation and lower numbers of individuals.
Since 2010, USGS scientist Lisa Robbins and USF colleague Jonathan Wynn have collected over 30,000 water samples during three research cruises in the Arctic Ocean to study ocean acidification in the Canada Basin and the role that sea ice may play in ocean chemistry [for example, see "Arctic Expedition—Joint U.S.-Canada Survey for Purpose of Delineating Extended Continental Shelf"]. Although excess CO2 is likely the major contributor to ocean acidification in the Arctic Ocean, fresh water from melting ice lowers the buffering capacity of seawater, making the two contributors a one-two punch in lowering the pH of the Arctic Ocean. The USGS ocean acidification research team has also focused on educational outreach with a twitter feed @USGSArctic, cruise journals, and resources for teachers located on the USGS Ocean Acidification webpages.
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