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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Matthew A Charette
  • (508) 289-3205
  • Ken O Buesseler
Award Date:02/12/2015
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 1,244,524
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 1,244,524
  • FY 2016=$581,393
  • FY 2017=$151,452
  • FY 2015=$511,679
Start Date:02/15/2015
End Date:01/31/2019
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: GEOTRACES Arctic Section: Radium and Thorium Isotopes as Natural Geochemical Tracers in the Arctic Ocean
Federal Award ID Number:1458305
DUNS ID:001766682
Parent DUNS ID:001766682
Program:Chemical Oceanography
Program Officer:
  • Henrietta Edmonds
  • (703) 292-7427

Awardee Location

County:Woods Hole
Awardee Cong. District:09

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Street:360 Woods Hole Road
City:Woods Hole
County:Woods Hole
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

In this project, investigators participating in the 2015 U.S. GEOTRACES Arctic expedition will measure radium and thorium isotopes in the western Arctic Ocean. In common with other national initiatives in the International GEOTRACES Program, the goals of the U.S. Arctic expedition are to identify processes and quantify fluxes that control the distributions of key trace elements and isotopes in the ocean, and to establish the sensitivity of these distributions to changing environmental conditions. Some trace elements are essential to life, others are known biological toxins, and still others are important because they can be used as tracers of a variety of physical, chemical, and biological processes in the sea. The radionuclides to be measured as part of this project are important because they are oceanographic tracers that provide information on rates of cycling of other trace elements. The project will involve training opportunities for graduate student researchers and for undergraduate students from under-represented groups. Results from the study will be shared publicly through the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution?s Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity. While other GEOTRACES projects will map the distribution of numerous trace elements and their isotopes (TEIs), their distribution cannot be properly interpreted without concurrent measurement of tracers capable of providing rates of internal TEI cycling processes and fluxes at boundaries and across interfaces. The isotopes to be measured in this project include a suite of uranium/thorium series radionuclides, including the shorter-lived 234-Th and 228-Th as well as the radium quartet (224-Ra, 223-Ra, 228-Ra, 226-Ra). These tracers have the appropriate half-lives and reactivities to allow for study of horizontal and vertical transport and mixing, as well as removal at ocean boundaries, supply via rivers and submarine groundwater discharge, surface scavenging and export and subsurface remineralization. The researchers have considerable experience developing and implementing the most efficient methods to sample and quantify this suite of tracers, which includes use of battery powered in-situ pumps for large volume sampling. Hence, in addition to the proposed work on uranium/thorium series radionuclides, the team will also provide a service to other GEOTRACES researchers by coordinating pump use and sampling for many essential particulate TEIs.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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{Rutgers van der Loeff}, Michiel and Kipp, Lauren and Charette, Matthew A. and Moore, Willard S. and Black, Erin and Stimac, Ingrid and Charkin, Alexander and Bauch, Dorothea and Valk, Ole and Karcher, Michael and Krumpen, Thomas and Casacuberta, N{\'{u}} "{Radium Isotopes Across the Arctic Ocean Show Time Scales of Water Mass Ventilation and Increasing Shelf Inputs}" Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v., 2018, p.. doi:10.1029/2018JC013888 

Charette, M.A., P.J. Lam, M.C. Lohan, E.Y. Kwon, V. Hatje, C. Jeandel, A.M. Shiller, G.A. Cutter, A. Thomas, P.W. Boyd, W.B. Homoky, A. Milne, H. Thomas, P.S. Andersson, D. Porcelli, T. Tanaka, W. Geibert, F. Dehairs, J. Garcia-Orellana "Coastal ocean and shelf-sea biogeochemical cycling of trace elements and isotopes: lessons learned from GEOTRACES" Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, v.374, 2016, p.20160076. doi:10.1098/rsta.2016.0076 

Kipp, Lauren E. and Charette, Matthew A. and Moore, Willard S. and Henderson, Paul B. and Rigor, Ignatius G. "{Increased fluxes of shelf-derived materials to the central arctic ocean}" Science Advances, v., 2018, p.. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao1302 

Kipp, L.E., Charette, M.A., Moore, W.S., Henderson, P.B., Rigor, I.G. "Increased fluxes of shelf-derived materials to the central Arctic Ocean" Science Advances, v.4, 2018, p.eaao1302.

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.

This NSF funded research project found surprising evidence of rapid climate change in the Arctic: In the middle of the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole, scientists discovered that the levels of radium-228 have almost doubled over the last decade.

The finding indicates that large-scale changes are happening along the coast?because the source of the radium is the land and shallow continental shelves surrounding the ocean. These coastal changes, in turn, could also be delivering more nutrients, carbon, and other chemicals into the Arctic Ocean and lead to dramatic impacts on Arctic food webs and animal populations.

The research team suspects that melting sea ice has left more open water near the coast for winds to create waves. The wave action reaches down to the shallow shelves and stirs up sediments, releasing radium that is carried to the surface and away into the open ocean. The same mechanism would likely also mobilize and deliver more nutrients, carbon, and other chemicals into the Arctic Ocean, fueling the growth of plankton at the bottom of the food chain. That, in turn, could have significant impacts on fish and marine mammals and change the Arctic ecosystem.

But there are other possible contributing factors that are causing changes over the shelf, the scientists say. More wave action can also cause more coastline erosion, adding more terrestrial sediment into the ocean. Warming temperatures can thaw permafrost, liberating more material into the ocean, and increasing river and groundwater runoff can carry more radium, nutrients, carbon, and other material into the Arctic.

The researchers contend that continued monitoring of shelf inputs to Arctic surface waters is vital to understand how the changing climate will affect the chemistry, biology, and economic resources of the Arctic Ocean. 

-Lonny Lippsett, Lauren Kipp, and Matt Charette

Last Modified: 04/19/2019
Modified by: Matthew A Charette

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