Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems

The Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division is an interdisciplinary team of scientists working to support NOAA's mission to understand our oceans and coasts, to aid conservation and management of marine ecosystems, and to predict changes to these valuable resources. We focus on the forces and stressors that cause ecological responses and work on scales spanning from the local to the global. The Division works on a variety of important topics with direct impacts to our community including the global rise of CO2, the ability of our ecosystems to support marine life, the safety of our swimming waters, and the health of coral reefs here and across the globe.

Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems

The Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division (OCED) is an interdisciplinary team of scientists working to support NOAA’s mission to understand our oceans and coasts, to aid conservation and management of marine ecosystems, and to predict changes to these valuable resources. We focus on the forces and stressors that cause ecological responses and work on scales spanning from the local to the global. The Division works on a variety of important topics with direct impacts to our community including the global rise of CO2, the ability of our ecosystems to support marine life, the safety of our swimming waters, and the health of coral reefs here and across the globe.

Our Research

'Omics

``'Omics`` refers to biological analysis at the molecular level (i.e., DNA, RNA, or proteins). It is used to identify organisms and their activities (e.g., carbon, oxygen, metals, toxins, and nutrients). Sequencing techniques allow many types of organisms (viruses to larvae) to be characterized from a single sample of seawater or sediment. AOML uses 'omics to study genes and proteins to better understand how marine organisms and ecosystems remain healthy and to better understand communities of microorganisms that are critical to both human health and the world’s ecosystems. (Click image at left to learn more)

Ocean Carbon Cycle

Ocean carbon cycle research at AOML studies the transport and the transformation of carbon in the ocean. The overarching question that is addressed is: What has happened to the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities and what is its impact on ocean ecosystems? (Click image at left to learn more)

Coral Research

Our mission is to provide services and information sources for researchers and the public in order to help improve and sustain coral reef health throughout the world. If you are interested in receiving announcements, news and participating in ongoing discussions via email we also have our coral-list listserve available to you, currently serving over 8000 subscribers worldwide. These services and more can be accessed via the top menu navigation system.

Nutrient Biogeochemistry

AOML's nutrient biogeochemistry program uses state-of-the-art equipment and techniques, many of which were developed in-house to study nutrient dynamics in coastal and open ocean environments. The field programs focus on the nutrient dynamics coupled with carbon and oxygen cycles in open oceans. In coastal environments, we study the role of nutrient availability in ecosystem functioning. (Click image at left to learn more)

Ocean Acidification

AOML conducts important research missions along Florida's Gulf and east coasts, to track temperature, salinity, and acidity of the water. We now have a better understanding of how our ocean is changing and what we might expect in the future from important marine species in Florida like coral. We do this through a combination of approaches including the use of buoys, regular sampling at select reef sites, ships of opportunity and mayor cruises along the whole U.S. East coast and Gulf of Mexico, as well as model development. (Click image at left to learn more)

Ecosystem Assessment and Modeling

Ecosystem Assessment, and Modeling (EAM) research assesses, evaluates, and predicts the holistic, integrated ecosystem status using a broad range of scientific tools (e.g. observations, empirical analyses, end-to-end ecosystem modeling, etc.). The mission of EAM is to provide the products needed to inform ecosystem-based management (EBM) decisions; thus ensuring resource managers evaluate their decisions in a holistic, integrated ecosystem context to provide useful scientific information to resource managers in a manner that improves their science-based decision-making. (Click image to learn more)

Featured Projects

Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems Data

We collect and analyze Ocean Acidification, Coral Data, Ecosystem Data, and Carbon Data. Click the thumbnails to visit the Data page and get access.

Ocean Acidification Data

Satellite data and data-assimilative hybrid model maps components of the carbonate system of surface water.

This true-color satellite images shows the sampling stations as flags monitored by the research team for the Juvenile Sportfish.

Ecosystem Data

Ecosystem assessments for informing management decisions around South Florida. Includes Juvenile Sportfish Surveys, Ecosystem Assessment Cruises, and Florida Waterman's Data.

Coral Data

AOML contributes to the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. Find the data here.

Carbon Cycle Data

Dissolved inorganic compound (DIC) measurements and underway partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) measurements.

Featured Publication

Essay: Effective Science- Based Fishery Management is Good for Gulf of Mexico’s “Bottom Line” – But Evolving Challenges Remain

Effective Science‐Based Fishery Management is Good for Gulf of Mexico’s “Bottom Line” – But Evolving Challenges Remain

Introduction: The northern Gulf of Mexico (GoM) is an ecologically and economically productive system that supports some of the largest volume and most valuable fisheries in the United States. The benefit of these fisheries to society and to the surrounding Gulf communities has varied historically, commensurate with the fish population sizes and the economic activities they are able to sustain. Following reauthorization of the Magnuson‐Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) as amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act in 1996, strict requirements were put into place for rebuilding overfished stocks, including several in the GoM. Now 2 decades later, we can assess the impacts of fisheries management, as guided by the MSA and implemented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and other state and international agencies. The northern GoM has experienced increases in biomass levels for many stocks, concurrent with increased commercial landings and revenues, increased recreational fishing effort, and a steadily growing regional ocean economy over the past decade (Karnauskas et al. 2017). However, it is critical to interpret these trends in the context of other major drivers in the Gulf ecosystem, and to ensure that all resource users can reap the benefits of a well‐managed fisheries system for years to come.

Essay: Effective Science- Based Fishery Management is Good for Gulf of Mexico’s “Bottom Line” – But Evolving Challenges Remain

Weekly Bulletin & Recent News

  • 07Jun

    Using Autonomous Vehicles for Ecosystem Assessments

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  • 22May

    New NOAA, Partner Buoy in American Samoa Opens Window into a Changing Ocean

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  • 17May

    AOML Temperature Sensor to be Deployed at Reef Sites Worldwide

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  • 17May

    Scientists Use 3D Printing Technology to Study Water Chemistry at Coral Reefs

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  • 21Mar

    Global Ocean is Absorbing More Carbon from Fossil Fuel Emissions

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  • 18Sep

    BEACHES Study Promotes Health & Safety for Beachgoers

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Luke Thompson Awarded Paper of the Year

Dr. Luke Thompson, a Northern Gulf Institute professor with AOML’s Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division, and AOML coauthor Kelly Goodwin are the recipients of an Outstanding Scientific Paper Award from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) for their landmark paper entitled A communal catalogue reveals Earth’s multiscale microbial diversity. The paper was selected by OAR as the top FY-2018 science article in the Oceans and Great Lakes category. Thompson et al. (2017)* presents an analysis of microbial samples collected by hundreds of researchers worldwide for the Earth Microbiome Project. The paper serves as both a reference database and a framework for incorporating data from future studies, advancing the characterization and understanding of Earth’s microbial diversity.

Dr. Luke Thompson (center) is congratulated by OAR Assistant Administrator Craig McLean (left) and Stuart Levenbach of NOAA’s Office of the Under Secretary/ Administrator (right) at the OAR Awards Ceremony in Silver Spring, Maryland on March 12.

Dr. Luke Thompson (center) is congratulated by OAR Assistant Administrator Craig McLean (left) and Stuart Levenbach of NOAA’s Office of the Under Secretary/ Administrator (right) at the OAR Awards Ceremony in Silver Spring, Maryland on March 12.

Capabilities

Small Boats Program Key Tools For Ecosystem Monitoring

AOML’s Small Boats Program enables scientists to study the coral reefs along the Florida Keys as part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. Small boats allow for long-term measurement of key variables to gauge the status and trends of coral reef health. At our mooring site in the Florida Keys, Cheeca Rocks, scientists measure variables such as calcium carbonate budgets, ecosystem and species-specific calcification rates, and bioerosion rates. With this critical ecosystem information scientist can examine the impacts of ocean acidification caused by changing climate conditions.

Mobile Carbon Lab

The COlab based out of NOAA/ AOML processes samples from research cruises around the world to monitor the effect of carbon uptake on ocean health. Sampling is performed at sea during open ocean and coastal cruises and processed in the onboard COlab or at the AOMLCOlab, depending on the nature of the project. Sampling is done to 6,000 meters so we can provide a profile of the water column and learn more about how the ocean takes up and stores carbon. This collaborative effort between AOML, universities, and other NOAA organizations provides long-term datasets which can be used to measure the health of the oceans over time.

Experimental Reef Lab Imagined and Built in 3D

We designed and built the CIMAS Experimental Reef Lab (ERL) at the University of Miami as a state of the art system for creating the reefs of tomorrow today, in the lab. Using custom algorithms and real-time logging, ERL is capable of controlling temperature, light, and seawater carbonate chemistry at an order of magnitude higher precision than many contemporary systems.

Visit the Lab Page. 

Advanced Manufacturing and Design Lab From Prototype to Proof of Concept

AOML’s Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division has taken a visionary approach to answering our most pressing questions about coral reef health by stepping outside of science and embracing new technology to engineer in-house solutions for underwater sampling. See what’s new and- visit the lab page. 

Bioinformatics Developing Capacity for 'Omics Research

Genome-based techniques improve our ability to characterize and monitor ecosystems. By identifying these genomic markers we can protect fisheries resources and endangered species, locate resources to make advances in pharmaceutical research, and even natural resources like oil and gas reserves.

One challenge of this technology is that the data has outpaced the ability to sequence and identify it. To help address the backlog, AOML has been working to develop bioinformatics capacity which is critical to the success of all ‘Omics projects. AOML has secured servers dedicated to bioinformatic analysis, hired young scientists to help with analysis, and created user groups (local and NOAA-wide) to provide support.

Featured Publication

A recent study by AOML and partners identified coral communities at Cheeca Rocks in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that appear to be more resilient than other nearby reefs to coral bleaching after back to back record breaking hot summers in 2014 and 2015 and increasingly warmer waters. This local case study provides a small, tempered degree of optimism that some Caribbean coral communities may be able to acclimate to warming waters.

Cheeca Rocks is a shallow inshore patch reef near Islamorada, Florida that has much higher coral cover than the surrounding offshore reefs of the Florida Keys. As part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program, which is co-funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and Ocean Acidification Program, AOML researchers used high resolution underwater imagery to create a mosaic of the reef scape before, during, and after bleaching. These mosaic images allowed high resolution monitoring of changes in over 4,000 coral colonies.

Before Recovery, September 2014
After Recovery, April 2018

Looking for scientific literature? Visit our Publication Database.

Contact

Jim Hendee Headshot. Photo Credit: AOML, NOAA.

Jim Hendee
305.361.4396

| Jim Hendee

Director, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division

If you would like more information on the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division, please contact Jim Hendee, Director of the Division.

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