2022-2023 Science Planning Summary
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2022-2023 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Collaborative Research: Gas Hydrate Contribution to the Ross Sea Carbon Budget; Shallow Sediment to Water Column; Present and Future

Photo by Amy Chiuchiolo. Image courtesy of NSF/USAP Photo Library. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
O-269-N Research Location(s): Ross Sea


Event Number:
NSF / OPP Award 2044453

Program Manager:
Dr. David Sutherland

ASC POC/Implementer:
David Rivera / Jamee Johnson

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Richard B Coffin
Texas A & M University


Supporting Stations: RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer
Research Locations: Ross Sea


Understanding Earth warming requires significant insight on geochemical and geobiological cycles in both polar regions. The Antarctic Ross Sea has an extensive bottom ocean layer-sediment interface that is one of the most rapidly warming regions. Here, plans are to determine the significance of a vast transitory gas hydrate carbon reservoir and provide thorough assessment of Earth warming with a Southern Hemisphere focus. Recent double-bottom simulating reflections (BSRs) observed through seismic profiles indicates a thermogenic carbon source and extensive carbon storage in deep sediment hydrates. This warming and ice melting coupled with high thermogenic gas hydrate loadings suggest the Ross Sea is essential to determine contributions of current and potential future methane, petroleum, and glacial carbon to shallow sediment and water column carbon cycles. This group will examine methane since it is abundant in ocean sediments and can be a significant source of carbon dioxide. Comparison of carbon source(s) and cycling will include phytoplankton, glacier ice, shallow sediment organoclastic carbon, deep sediment oil, and methane trapped in gas hydrates. Data collection will include seismic profiling, light element isotope and broad geochemical and geo-microbiology parameters. Data will provide a new understanding of climate change and the effect on the ocean carbon budget.

Field Season Overview

Over a period of two seasons, a multidisciplinary science team will conduct research in the Ross Sea with the primary goal of characterizing potential and current gas hydrate contributions from the ocean floor, relative to the glacial ice and phytoplankton contributions to sediment and water column carbon cycling. In order to meet this goal, the science team will use the RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP) in 2022-23 and 2023-24 to conduct seismic operations, jumbo piston coring, multi-coring, multibeam surveys, sea ice sampling, and water column sampling. In December 2022, 14 science participants will embark on an expedition from Lyttelton, New Zealand to McMurdo Station with the already funded Bart project team (G-431-N). During this expedition, the Coffin team will conduct at least 10 days of seismic profiling and complete up to two Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) deployments of 10 instruments. Additional sampling may include CTD (connectivity, temperature, and depth) and multicoring. The team will disembark the vessel and fly out of McMurdo Station.

Deploying Team Members

  • Nathan Bangs (Co-PI)
  • Caleb Boyd
  • Boe Desrosier
  • Wade Jeffrey (Co-PI)
  • Brendon Mendenhall
  • Hannah Organ
  • Brandi Reese (Co-PI)
  • Steffen Saustrup
  • Fynn Warnke
  • Rachel Weisend
  • Derry Xu
  • Hao Yu