NASA Supports SMAST Collaborative Research to Discover Coastal Waters Effect on CO2

School for Marine Science & Technology Receives $228,000 from NASA Earth Science Division

UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) has received $228,000 from NASA to continue its collaborative project to discover how coastal waters store and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Rising levels of CO2 have raised concerns about ocean acidification and its effects on marine life. 

SMAST Dean Dr. Steven E. Lohrenz will personally lead the research team, which includes partners from Auburn University, University of Delaware, and North Carolina State University. The total budget for the project is $1.2 million over three years. 

The ocean absorbs about one third of all the fossil fuel CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, but the contribution of coastal waters to this is still very uncertain. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere influences climate and can alter the chemistry of the oceans in ways that may negatively impact marine organisms, but more research is needed to understand how CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, particularly by coastal waters. 

The proposed research will employ a combination of models and observations from ships and satellites to examine linkages between land and ocean and how these interactions affect the ocean's ability to take up CO2 from the atmosphere. In past efforts, the primary region of study has been the Mississippi River and northern Gulf of Mexico. In its latest proposal, the research team has proposed extending the domain of observation to include the southeastern U.S. and South Atlantic Bight. 

The research effort will aid NASA's Carbon Monitoring System, which requires an understanding of both land and ocean ecosystems and how they influence atmospheric carbon sources and sinks. The effort will contribute to a decision support tool, providing substantive value to governance by policy makers and other stakeholders regarding carbon management in the context of changing climate conditions. 

The project was one of 71 proposals considered by NASA and one of only 15 selected. 

The focus at SMAST is on interdisciplinary basic-to-applied marine sciences and the development of related innovative technologies. In addition to the scholarly marine science and technology communities, the SMAST mission also emphasizes interaction with regional industry, and government and non-governmental agencies on compelling regional marine-related issues and technological development.

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