2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
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The effects of ocean acidification and rising sea surface temperatures on shallow-water benthic organisms in Antarctica
Doctoral students Kate Schoenrock (left) and Julie Schram (right) admire their set-up to conduct experiments on the impacts of ocean acidification and temperature rise on calcifying marine algae and invertebrates. Photo courtesy of Jim McClintock. 

Program Manager:
Dr. Diana Nemergut


ASC POC/Implementer:
Leslie Blank / Philip Spindler

Dr. James McClintock (Principal Investigator)

University of Alabama Birmingham
Department of Biology
Birmingham, Alabama

Supporting Stations:  Palmer Station
Research Locations:  Palmer Lab / Local boating area

Project Description:
The benthic flora and fauna of the shallow nearshore waters of the Antarctic Peninsula are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Southern Ocean is predicted to become undersaturated in terms of both aragonite and calcite within 50 and 100 years, respectively, challenging calcification processes. Moreover, antarctic peninsular marine benthic organisms are essentially stenothermal, yet are being subjected to rising seawater temperatures. Adding to the problem, antarctic calcified benthic marine organisms are more vulnerable to ocean acidification than temperate and tropical species because they are generally weakly calcified. In a recent study researchers found that post-mortem thalli of antarctic benthic crustose algae and shells of macroinvertebrates are highly susceptible to rapid dissolution under the predicted regime of ocean acidification. The present study will extend this important analysis to living benthic macroalgae and invertebrates. It will provide an evaluation of the individual and combined effects of rising ocean acidification and sea surface temperatures on shallow-water calcified benthic organisms in western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) marine communities.

Field Season Overview:
In this second and final year of this award, five field team members will deploy to Palmer Station on varying schedules. Two project divers will be on station for approximately three months. Two of the PIs will deploy at the beginning of the season. A volunteer station staff member will serve as dive tender for Zodiac-based dives. Team members will use lab space and outdoor tanks for “mesocosm” experiments, similar to those done by this group in the past.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Charles Amsler
  • Kathryn Schoenrock
  • Julie Schram
  • Kevin Scriber

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs