Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems

The Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division is comprised of an interdisciplinary team of scientists that work to support NOAA's mission to understand our oceans and coasts, aid conservation and management of marine ecosystems, and 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 research topics that directly impact our community including the global rise of carbon dioxide, 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 comprised of scientists working to support NOAA’s mission to understand our oceans and coasts, aid conservation and management of marine ecosystems, and 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 that directly impact our community including the global rise of carbon dioxide, 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.

Research Themes

Research Themes

Omics Research

“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 biological entities to be characterized on a molecular scale from viruses to whales. AOML uses Omics to study DNA, RNA, and proteins to better understand marine organisms and ecosystem health by researching changes in gene expression, microbial communities, SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), and proteins.

Visit the Omics Page for 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?

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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 listserv available to you, currently serving over 8000 subscribers worldwide. These services and more can be accessed via the top menu navigation system.

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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.

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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 and resources in Florida, such as coral reefs. We do this through a combination of approaches including the use of buoys, regular sampling at select reef sites, ships of opportunity and major cruises along the whole U.S. East coast and Gulf of Mexico, as well as model development.

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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.

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Featured Projects

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.

Featured OCED 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

Looking for scientific literature? Visit our Publication Database.

Recent News

The Florida Keys Integrated Assessment (IEA) team, led by AOML in partnership with managers and scientists from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, launched a new Ecosystem Status Report web tool on May 13th. The IEA approach aims to balance the needs of nature and society through Ecosystem-Based Management. It provides scientific knowledge of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary ecosystem to scientists, policy makers and resource managers. 

  • 19May

    Florida Keys Integrated Assessment Team Launches New Ecosystem Status Report Web Tool

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  • 08Apr

    NOAA Premieres Strategies Focused on Emerging Science and Technology

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  • 31Mar

    Women’s History Month: Ocean Acidification with Leticia Barbero

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  • 27Mar

    Women’s History Month: Omics with Kelly Goodwin

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  • 07Feb

    Nutrients Entering Biscayne Bay: Tracking the Source with New Technology

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  • 06Dec

    AOML Contributes Ocean Carbon Observations for the Global Carbon Budget 2019

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Capabilities

Small Boats Program Key Tools For Ecosystem Monitoring

The AOML small boat program maintains four small boats (a 22 foot flats boat, a 24 foot catamaran, a 25 foot dusky cuddy cabin, and a 21 foot center console) that allows AOML to conduct a variety of coastal research.  Research conducted on the small boats allows AOML scientists to investigate coastal ecosystem, chemical, and oceanographic processes, including on Florida Coral Reefs.

Mobile Carbon Lab Monitoring the Ocean's Global Carbon Ccle

The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) laboratory based out of NOAA/ AOML processes samples from research cruises around the world to determine the CO2 uptake by the ocean and 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 mobile COlaboratory or AOML, depending on the nature of the project. Sampling is done to through the whole water column so we can 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 changes in carbon content and its effect on the health of the oceans over time.

Experimental Reef Lab Imagined and Built in 3D

The Experimental Reef Lab (ERL) at the University of Miami was designed and built by AOML and CIMAS to precisely manipulate conditions reef organisms will experience in the future. The lab has 16 completely separate aquarium systems which each can be programmed to have different pH, temperature, and light. One of the unique features of the lab is the fully automated control and logging, facilitating real-time manipulation of dynamic treatment levels. Scientists have used the Experimental Reef Lab’s system to study how certain genotypes of corals may be more resilient to temperature stress, how daily pH fluctuations enhance coral growth, and how ocean acidification will lead to accelerated reef erosion, among other things. 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. For more information about the Advanced Manufacturing and Design Laboratory, visit the Lab Page. 

Bioinformatics Developing Capacity for Omics Research

Genome-based techniques improve our ability to characterize and monitor ecosystems. By identifying and studying genomic markers, we can protect fisheries resources and endangered species, locate resources to make advances in pharmaceutical research, and even find natural resources like oil and gas reserves. Genome-based methods include genomics, proteomics, and other “-omics” methods; collectively we call these methods Omics.

One challenge of Omics technologies is that the pace of data generation has outstripped our ability to analyze it. To help address the backlog, AOML has been working to increase bioinformatics capacity, which is critical to the success of all Omics projects. AOML has secured servers dedicated to bioinformatics analysis, hired young scientists to help with analysis, and created user groups (local and NOAA-wide) to provide support.

Contact

Jim Hendee Headshot. Photo Credit: AOML, NOAA.

Jim Hendee, Ph.D.
305.361.4396

| Jim Hendee, Ph.D.

Director, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division

Chris Kelble
305.361.4330

| Chris Kelble, Ph.D.

Deputy Director, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division

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