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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Old Dominion University Research Foundation
  • Pierre St-Laurent
  • (757) 683-5558
  • Eileen E Hofmann
  • Daniel L Dickerson
Award Date:07/13/2015
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 154,951
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 154,951
  • FY 2015=$154,951
Start Date:07/15/2015
End Date:06/30/2018
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: Investigating the Role of Mesoscale Processes and Ice Dynamics in Carbon and Iron Fluxes in a Changing Amundsen Sea (INSPIRE)
Federal Award ID Number:1443657
DUNS ID:077945947
Program:ANT Ocean & Atmos Sciences
Program Officer:
  • Peter Milne
  • (703) 292-4714

Awardee Location

Street:4111 Monarch Way
Awardee Cong. District:03

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Old Dominion University
Street:5115 Hampton Boulevard
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

The Amundsen Sea, in the remote Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean, is one of the least well studied Antarctic continental shelf regions. It shares characteristics in common with other Antarctic ice shelf regions, but exhibits unique aspects also. The Amundsen Sea Polynya (ASP), an open region at the base of several of the terminal glaciers draining the West Antarctic Ice sheet exhibits: 1) large intrusions of heat delivered from the warming modified circumpolar deep water (mCDW) rising up onto the continental shelf, 2) the fastest melting ice sheets in Antarctica, 3) the most productive coastal polynya (161 g C m-2) together with a significant atmospheric CO2 sink, and 4) some of the most rapidly declining regions of seasonal off-shore sea ice on Earth. Following on from an earlier oceanographic field program, the Amundsen Sea Polynya International Research Expedition (ASPIRE; 2011), this study seeks to better synthesize and model the relative contributions of both physical ocean-ice linkages and biological production and carbon export terms and to compare these with other circumpolar Antarctic regions. A central feature will be the use of a regionally coupled physical-biogeochemical model to follow the dynamics of the large phytoplankton blooms that occur annually in the Amundsen Sea Polyna. This study will provides a means to locate the Amundsen Sea properties along the continuum of Antarctic ice shelf systems, and to understand how these system might change in response to climate change. Pedagogical techniques will be used to provide educational outreach for three distinct target populations: secondary students, pre-service science teachers, and in-service science teachers. Partnerships will be developed with science teacher educators to implement the STEM career-development lessons in undergraduate and graduate level science teacher education courses.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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St-Laurent, P., P.L. Yager, R.M. Sherrell, S.E. Stammerjohn and M.S. Dinniman "Pathways and supply of dissolved iron in the Amundsen Sea (Antarctica)" J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, v.122, 2017, p.7135. doi:10.1002/2017JC013162 

St-Laurent, P. and Yager, P. L. and Sherrell, R. M. and Stammerjohn, S. E. and Dinniman, M. S. "Pathways and supply of dissolved iron in the Amundsen Sea (Antarctica): PATHWAYS OF DISSOLVED IRON AMUNDSEN SEA" Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v.122, 2017, p.. doi:10.1002/2017JC013162 Citation details  

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.

The INSPIRE project investigated a unique region of the coastal Antarctic (the Amundsen Sea Polynya, ASP) characterized by fast-melting glaciers and a very high production of microscopic algae during the summer season. It helped to undercover the inner workings of this region and to progressively reveal the secrets behind its unusually high productivity. One of the most important outcomes of INSPIRE relates to the circulation of the water in the region. The meltwater from the glaciers was found to act like warm air in a shower, rising toward the surface while pulling in water at the bottom. This 'meltwater pump' is amplified by the tremendously high glacier melt rates of the Amundsen Sea and influences the water circulation a hundred miles away from the glaciers. The key effect of this pump is that it pulls in bottom water that is rich in iron, transports it upward, and then releases it close to the surface. Computer simulations (akin to those used for weather forecasts) further revealed that the water that is pumped will accumulate over several years in the ASP.

The accumulation of water that is rich in iron has important implications for marine life. Single-celled algae, the backbone of the marine food web, are often deficient in iron in this region of the World Ocean, which can limit their growth rate and therefore the annual 'yield' of the region. The meltwater pump partly alleviates this situation in the ASP and contributes to the region's productivity. This productivity is eventually limited by another factor; the availability of light. Computer simulations revealed that the algae becomes sufficiently abundant in the ASP to partially block the incident sunlight. Ultimately, it is the limited availability of both light and iron that determines the decline of the algae production at the end of the summer season. With this additional insight on the productivity the ASP, the project investigated the fate of the tremendous amount of organic material produced during the summer bloom. This investigation was innovative because it used a state-of-the-art computer simulation representing simultaneously the melt of the glaciers, the circulation of the water and the biological interactions. The simulation revealed that organic matter is transported by the ocean circulation over a distance of a hundred miles before reaching the sea floor or being recycled. This result expands our understanding of the fate of organic matter in the ASP and represents valuable insight for future field efforts.

The INSPIRE project had multiple beneficial impacts for society at large. The computer simulations developed during the course of INSPIRE are shared with other research groups, notably glaciologists studying the contribution of Antarctic glacial melting to global sea level rise. The latter process directly affects coastal communities throughout the world. Moreover, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations affect the environment through global warming and ocean acidification. INSPIRE contributed to our understanding of how the ocean, like forests on land, can potentially slow down the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The goals and outcomes of INSPIRE were communicated in a variety of formats including a magazine article targeting the general public, a website, and multiple publications and presentations for the scientific community. The results of INSPIRE were also integrated into educational activities by a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education specialist. The activities introduced the students to important physical/biological concepts of marine life and to STEM-related careers in environmental sciences.

Last Modified: 11/26/2018
Modified by: Pierre St-Laurent

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