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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Institute for Systems Biology
  • Monica V Orellana
  • (206) 685-5422
Award Date:07/03/2012
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 182,731
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 182,731
  • FY 2012=$182,731
Start Date:07/15/2012
End Date:02/29/2016
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.078
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: TRacing the fate of Algal Carbon Export in the Ross Sea (TRACERS)
Federal Award ID Number:1142049
DUNS ID:135646524
Program:ANT Ocean & Atmos Sciences

Awardee Location

Street:401 Terry Avenue North
Awardee Cong. District:07

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Institute for Systems Biology
Street:401 Terry Avenue North
Cong. District:07

Abstract at Time of Award

Intellectual Merit: Sinking particles are a major element of the biological pump and they are commonly assigned to two fates: mineralization in the water column and accumulation at the seafloor. However, there is another fate of export hidden within the vertical decline of carbon, the transformation of sinking organic matter to fine suspended and/or dissolved organic fractions. This process has been suggested but has rarely been observed or quantified. As a result, it is presumed that the solubilized fraction is largely mineralized over short time scales. However, global ocean surveys of dissolved organic carbon are demonstrating a significant water column accumulation of organic matter under high productivity environments. This proposal will investigate the transformation of organic particles from sinking to solubilized phases of the export flux in the Ross Sea. The Ross Sea experiences high export particle production, low dissolved organic carbon export with overturning circulation, and the area has a predictable succession of production and export events. In addition, the basin is shallow (< 000 m) so the products the PIs will target are relatively concentrated. To address the proposed hypothesis, the PIs will use both well-established and novel biochemical and optical measures of export production and its fate. The outcomes of this work will help researchers close the carbon budget in the Ross Sea. Broader impacts: This research will support graduate and undergraduate students and will provide undergraduates and pre-college students with field-based research experience. Scientifically, this research will increase understanding of carbon sinks in the Ross Sea and will help develop new tools for identifying, quantifying, and tracking that carbon. The PIs will interface with K-12 students through daily reports from the field and through educational modules developed by several of the PIs in collaboration with science education specialists and college students. A K-12 educator will be included on the research cruises. Outreach will be through COSEE Florida and the Maritime Center in Norfolk, VA.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Ludwig, C. M., Orellana, M. V., DeVault, M., Simon, Z., and Baliga, N. S. "Ocean Acidification: Engaging Students in Solving a Systems-level, Global Problem" The Science Teacher, v.82, 2015, p.41. doi:Published 

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

Intellectual Merit: The Southern Ocean plays a critical role for carbon sequestration (that is, how carbon is removed from the atmosphere and stored) in the oceans. The flux of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) export to the deep ocean depends on the efficiency of the mechanism by which biomass is transported to depth from the sunlit ocean. This study focused on understanding the biological mechanisms that drive carbon export, and specifically the impact of cell death, in the Ross Sea observed in the late austral summer during TRACERS (2013). While cell death controls the turnover of phytoplankton in the oceans, very few field data exist and show this. We present evidence of diatoms undergoing cell death and the causes in the Ross Sea. We also examined other primary groups of organisms undergoing cell death in the water column. We found that diatoms dying at the ocean surface, while other dying organisms were found at depth. In addition, we determined that cell death has an important role controlling carbon export in the Ross Sea through the production of exopolymer particles that quickly sink to the deep ocean, or as free biopolymers that assemble into bigger particles, which then consumed in the water column.

Broader Impacts: Understanding the biological mechanisms driving the carbon export to the deep ocean, including the community structure that drives the export production allows us to predict the fate of the carbon exported from the euphotic zone. Furthermore, understanding the physical dynamics of polymers produced by cell death has an impact on the understanding of the dynamics of dissolved organic matter in other oceans.

From this grant and in combination with other NSF grants we designed an education module to better understand ocean acidification. This high school curriculum is very popular and has an important impact on society. We believe that education brings awareness about ocean acidification and climate change. We believe that an educated public will be empowered to understand the issue, critically assess complex information, and make informed decisions on behaviors that could control and mitigate CO2 emissions.

Last Modified: 05/29/2016
Modified by: Monica Orellana

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