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Dissolving Seas: The effects of ocean acidification and warming on temperate, coastal ecosystems

May 23 2017

Collaborating with citizen scientists to monitor intertidal and subtidal communities in Acadia National Park for shifts in species composition, along with changes in ocean pH and temperature, to determine the effects of ocean acidification and warming on temperate, coastal ecosystems.

May 23 2017


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Mission Underway

We are just about to end two weeks of sampling and monitoring the rocky intertidal zone of the Schoodic Peninsula of Acadia National Park. Eight citizen scientists from Los Angeles County high schools helped us sample quadrats and transects at 13 sites around the peninsula.

We are still working on the Robomussels, aka Shellborgs, and hope to have them in place soon.

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Shellborgs! Eager to hear about the results.

Preparation Stage

In less than a month, I head to the beautiful Schoodic Peninsula for my 4th field season with citizen scientists from Los Angeles County (USA) high schools. We will continue our intertidal monitoring to track any change in community structure due to ocean acidification and warming.

This year we also hope to place "robomussels" at our field sites. These are are automatic temperature loggers placed inside real mussels shells to measure temperature the way critters experience warming at the scale they experience it. This will give us a more accurate and biologically-relevant indication of how intertidal critters experience ocean warming.

We will also be looking for sites for the OpenROV Trident, so we can be prepared if we are granted one (fingers crossed!)

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Incredible! I'd love to hear more about the robomussles. Do you have a link or place you've documented the technical aspects?

Thanks. My robomussels are based on two designs. The first is the original robomussel from Helmuth and Hofman (2001) Biol. Bull. 201: 374–384 and robolimpets by Lima and Wethey (2009) Limnol. Oceanogr.: Methods 7, 2009. I am using the robolimpet dessign in mussel shells.

I can send PDFs if you like

Great project and I can't wait to see where this expedition leads.

I'm only slightly disappointed that you didn't call them Shellborgs.

Shellborgs - I like it. I will not resist!

Expedition Background

The seas are dissolving. Thirty percent of CO2 emissions end up in the ocean causing ocean pH to drop. This is known as ocean acidification. And, of course, the oceans are also warming. Together, ocean acidification and warming, or OAW, is expected to have profound effects on marine life and ecosystems, including causing predators to lose their ability to find their prey to fundamental changes in ecosystem structure. The aim of this project is determine the effects of OAW on temperate, coastal ecosystems. In collaboration with citizen scientists, we monitor rocky intertidal communities in the Gulf of Maine at Acadia National Park for changes in species composition. We are also monitoring the pH, temperature, and salinity of the coastal ocean to determine if changes in community structure correlates with changes in ocean chemistry. Monitoring the intertidal zone, though, only tells part of the story. We also need to monitor subtidal communities. This would be done using the OpenROV Trident.

Another goal of this project is to engage the public, especially local communities and school children. Currently, we collaborate with citizen scientists on our intertidal sampling. With the OpenROV Trident, we will work with local schools to develop programming around this project and on marine conservation in general. Allowing students to see what’s underwater (and to help collect data), right of their coast, is a great way to excite them about the oceans, conservation, and science.

I am just developing a project in Australia with the same kind of aims as yours. Could you share the methodologies you are using?

Hi Libby.

Sorry for the delay in responding. I would be happy too provide my methodology. To track community transition over time, we have four permanent 60 cm2 quadrats containing 100 fixed points (gridded monofilament line) at each site (13 sites total) that are marked by stainless steel bolts. The quadrats are in the mid to upper intertidal zone. We record the species and ecological state (e.g., calcifying/non calcifying, open space, fleshy algae) under each point (based on Wootton). We also have 3 permanent transects (marked by bolts) at each site. We record the species at every 30cm to track changes in zonation.

We will set up subtidal transects if we get an OpenROV Trident. I haven't worked out the exact method - I want to do some preliminary testing first - but we will have three transects per site perpendicular to shore so that we can map the subtidal habitats (using GIS) to monitor for any changes in habitat over time.

We are monitoring changes in temperature, salinity, and pH using a SeapHOX. I will also be employing "robolimpets" (actually, mussels) to track temperature in the intertidal. The SeapHOX is subtidal (3 m).

Please let me know if you need more information. I would love to hear what you are doing and would like to keep in touch.