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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Columbia University
  • Hugh W Ducklow
  • (757) 876-2590
Award Date:06/12/2013
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 1,578,100
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 1,662,388
  • FY 2009=$993,577
  • FY 2010=$188,000
  • FY 2014=$37,500
  • FY 2011=$99,578
  • FY 2012=$296,945
  • FY 2013=$46,788
Start Date:04/01/2013
End Date:08/31/2015
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:Palmer, Antarctica Long Term Ecological Research Project
Federal Award ID Number:1344502
DUNS ID:049179401
Parent DUNS ID:049179401
Program:ANT Organisms & Ecosystems
Program Officer:
  • Lisa Clough
  • (703) 292-4746

Awardee Location

Street:2960 Broadway
County:New York
Awardee Cong. District:10

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Street:61 Route 9W
Cong. District:17

Abstract at Time of Award

Since 1990, Palmer LTER (PAL) research has been guided by the hypothesis that variability in the polar marine ecosystem is mechanistically coupled to changes in the annual advance, retreat and spatial extent of sea ice. Since that time, the hypothesis has been modified to incorporate climate migration, i.e. the displacement of a cold, dry polar climate by a warm, moist climate regime in the northern component of the PAL region, producing fundamental changes in food web structure and elemental cycling. The observed northern changes are affecting all trophic levels and elemental cycling, and the primary mechanism of change involves match-mismatch dynamics. The proposed research builds on previous findings, with a new emphasis on process studies and modeling to elucidate the mechanistic links between teleconnections, climate change, physical oceanographic forcing and ecosystem dynamics. The proposed research will examine the hypothesis that regional warming and sea ice decline associated with historical and on-going climate migration in the northern part of the study area have altered key phenological relationships, leading to changes in species distributions, increasing trophic mismatches and changes in habitat, food availability, ecosystem dynamics and biogeochemical cycling. Through targeted process studies linked to numerical model simulations, the research also will test the hypothesis that deep cross-shelf canyons characterizing the core study region are focal areas for ecosystem processes that result in predictable, elevated food resources for top-predators. The effort includes the addition of 3 new PIs: a zooplankton ecologist with expertise in biogeochemical fluxes, a phytoplankton ecologist focusing on bio-optics and autonomous observations using gliders, and a numerical simulation modeler specializing in coupled global models of ocean circulation, plankton ecology and biogeochemical cycles. The program will add trace metal sampling and analysis, moored physical oceanographic sensors, a moored sediment trap in the south, drifting sediment traps and stable carbon (del 13C) and nitrogen (del 15N) isotope analyses. Missions lasting up to 45 days using gliders deployed before, during and after summer cruises will, along with moorings and satellite remote sensing of sea ice, ocean color, sea surface temperatures and wind fields, greatly extend the observational program in space and time. Since its inception, PAL has been a leader in Information Management to enable knowledge-building within and beyond the Antarctic, oceanographic and LTER communities. PAL has designed and deployed a new information infrastructure with a relational database architecture to facilitate data distribution and sharing. The Education and Outreach program capitalizes on the public's fascination with Antarctica to promote scientific literacy from kindergarten students to adult citizens concerned with climate change and environmental sustainability. Through communicating results to the public and working with scientific assessment bodies (e.g., IPCC) and Antarctic Treaty parties to protect Earth's last frontier, PAL researchers contribute to the national scientific agenda and the greater public benefit.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Garzio, L.M., Steinberg, D.K., Erickson, M., and Ducklow, H.W. "Microzooplankton grazing along the Western Antarctic Peninsula" Aquatic Microbial Ecology, v.70, 2013, p.215.

Kavanaugh, M.T., F.N. Abdala, H. Ducklow, D. Glover, W. Fraser, D. Martinson, S. Stammerjohn, O. Schofield, and S.C. Doney. "The effect of continental shelf canyons on phytoplankton biomass and community composition along the western Antarctic Peninsula." Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.524, 2014, p.11.

Muller-Karger, F., Roffer, M., Walker, N., Oliver, M., Schofield, O., Abbott, M., Graber, H., Leben, R., Goni, G "Satellite remote sensing in support of an integrated ocean observing system." Geoscience and Remote Sensing Magazine. IEEE, v.1, 2014, p.8.

Schofield, O.M., Ducklow, H., Bernard, K.S., Doney, S. C., Patterson-Fraser, D., Gorman, K., Martinson, D., Meredith, M.P., Saba, G.K., Stammerjohn, S., Steinberg, D.K., and Fraser, W. "Schofield, O.M., Ducklow, H., Bernard, K.S., Doney, S. C." Oceanography, v.26, 2013, p.204.

Misumi, K., Lindsay, K., Moore, J.K., Doney, S. C., Bryan, F.O., Tsumune, D., and Yoshida, Y. "The iron budget in ocean surface waters in the 20th and 21st centuries: projections by the Community Earth System Model version 1." Biogeosciences Discussions, v.10, 2013, p.8505.

Meredith, M. P., Schofield, O., Newman, L., Urban, E., Sparrow, M. "Development and long-term vision for the Southern Ocean Observing System." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, v., 2014, p.. 

Saba, GK, Fraser, WR, Saba, VS, Iannuzzi, RA, Coleman, KE, Doney, SC, Ducklow, HW, Martinson, DG, Miles, TN, Patterson-Fraser, DL, Stammerjohn, SE, Steinberg,DK and Schofield, OM. "Winter and Spring Controls on the Summer Food Web of the coastal West Antarctic Peninsula" Nature Communications, v.5, 2014, p.. doi:doi:10.1038/ncomms5318 

Ducklow, H.W., Fraser, W.R., Meredith, M.P., Stammerjohn, S.E., Doney, S. C., Martinson, D.G., Sailley, S.F., Schofield, O.M., Steinberg, D.K., Venables, H. J., and Amsler, C.D. "West Antarctic Peninsula: An ice-dependent coastal marine ecosystem in transition" Oceanography, v.26, 2013, p.190.

Constable, Andrew J and Melbourne-Thomas, Jessica and Corney, Stuart P and Arrigo, Kevin R and Barbraud, Christophe and Barnes, David KA and Bindoff, Nathaniel L and Boyd, Philip W and Brandt, Angelika and Costa, Daniel P and others "Climate change and Southern Ocean ecosystems I: How changes in physical habitats directly affect marine biota" Global change biology, v., 2014, p.. doi:doi:Â 10.1111/gcb.12623 

Schofield, O., Glenn, S., and Moline, M. "The Robot Ocean Network" American Scientist, v.101, 2013, p.434.

Massom, R. A., Reid, P., Stammerjohn, S., Barreira, S., Leiser, J., and Scambos, T. A. "Antarctica: Sea ice extent and concentration [in "State of the Climate in 2012"]" Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., v.94, 2013, p.S141.

Sul, Woo Jun and Oliver, Thomas A and Ducklow, Hugh W and Amaral-Zettler, Linda A and Sogin, Mitchell L "Marine bacteria exhibit a bipolar distribution" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, v.110, 2013, p.2342--234.

Fraser, William R and Patterson-Fraser, Donna L and Ribic, Christine A and Schofield, Oscar and Ducklow, Hugh "A nonmarine source of variability in Ad{\'e}lie penguin demography" Oceanography, v.26, 2013, p.207--209.

Sailley, S.F., Ducklow, H., Moeller, H.V., Fraser, W. R., Schofield, O., Steinberg, D.K., Garzio, L.M., and Doney, S. "Carbon fluxes and pelagic ecosystem dynamics near two western Antarctic Peninsula Adélie penguin colonies: an inverse model approach." Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.492, 2013, p.253.

Pedulli, M., JJ. Bisagni, HW. Ducklow, R. Beardsley and C. Pilskaln "Estimates of potential new production (PNP) for the waters off the western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) region" Continental Shelf Research, v.84, 2014, p.54.

Bernard, Kim S and Steinberg, Deborah K "Krill biomass and aggregation structure in relation to tidal cycle in a penguin foraging region off the Western Antarctic Peninsula" ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil, v.70, 2013, p.834--849.

Convey, Peter and Chown, Steven L and Clarke, Andrew and Barnes, David KA and Bokhorst, Stef and Cummings, Vonda and Ducklow, Hugh W and Frati, Francesco and Green, TG Allan and Gordon, Shulamit and others "The spatial structure of Antarctic biodiversity" Ecological Monographs, v.84, 2014, p.203--244.

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.

Palmer Antarctica Long Term Ecological Research (PAL-LTER) Project is one of twenty-five sites in the US LTER Network. The principal goal of LTER is to “…to conduct research on ecological issues that can last decades and span huge geographical areas” ( Since its inception in 1990 the major scientific objective of our program has been to understand how year to year and decade to decade changes in the marine ecosystem are related to and controlled by changes in the areal extent, seasonality and duration of sea ice in the western Antarctic Peninsula region (WAP). We conduct research annually in the nearshore region at Palmer Station (the area accessed by small boats) and the offshore regions extending 200 km from the coast to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and from Palmer Station 700 km south to Charcot Island aboard icebreaker LM GOULD. We also have a very active educational and outreach program. Our aim is to improve understanding of, and literacy in science, technology and mathematics using examples from Antarctic science to engage students and learners at all levels.

Intellectual Merit. By the mid-1990s we recognized and documented that the WAP region is experiencing rapid rates of climate change, including warming ocean and air temperatures, melting and retreating glaciers and declining sea ice cover. The goal of the 2008-14 award has been to document and understand how the marine ecosystem is responding to several decades of climate warming in the WAP region. Previously we had reported on a long term (1980-present) decline in numbers of Adélie penguins in the Palmer region. At the same time, as the region warms and sea ice cover declines, Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins have colonized the region and are successfully breeding. The changes in penguin populations are emblematic of a paradigm that identifies some species of polar plants and animals as ice-obligate (e.g., Adélie penguins and Antarctic krill) and other related species as ice-independent to ice-intolerant (e.g., Gentoo penguins and gelatinous plankton). We hypothesize that we are observing the early stages of an ecosystem transformation from a polar, ice obligate to a subpolar, ice-independent ecosystem (see Figure 1 attached).

Recently our research has been aimed at detecting predicted changes of other organisms in the polar foodweb in our region, and understanding the ecological and physical processes causing the changes. One of the most important PAL discoveries was that phytoplankton stocks (the single-celled plants at the base of the foodweb) had declined by over 50% between 1978 and 2006 in the northern region of the WAP (Figure 2; the area experiencing most climate change). Further, we showed that the phytoplankton decline was linked to sea ice decline. Sea ice decline results in phytoplankton losses by decreasing the vertical stability (resistance to wind mixing) of the water column, and causing phytoplankton to be mixed deeper, and thus experiencing less light, needed for photosynthesis and growth (Figure 3).

Detecting decadal and longer changes in krill populations has been more difficult, even though the Antarctic krill life cycle is intimately tied to the rhythms of sea ice. However, in one of the final papers published during this award, we showed how krill populations vary in response to cycles in phytoplankton growth caused by sea ice changes (Figure 4). At Palmer Station there are cycles with 3 to 5 years of low phytoplankton abundance punctuated by one or two years of high abundance. Krill reproduction responds to the high phytoplankton years. In addition the sea ice/phytoplankton cycle is driven by changes in a large-scale atmospheric pattern, the Southern Annular Mode or SAM (Figure 5). It has been predicted that glo...

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