Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems Division

The ocean chemistry & ecosystems division developed the experimental reef lab to gain a greater understanding of how climate change will affect coral populations. color photograph depicts corals in aquatic tanks bathed in violet UV light.

Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems

The Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division supports NOAA’s mission to understand our oceans and coasts, aid conservation and management of marine ecosystems, and predict changes to these valuable resources. We work on a variety of research topics 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 Projects

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 Publication

Front page of "Restoration and coral adaptation delay, but do not prevent, climate-driven reef framework erosion of an inshore site in the Florida Keys" Nature journal article

Webb, A.E., Enochs, I.C., van Hooidonk, R. et al. Restoration and coral adaptation delay, but do not prevent, climate-driven reef framework erosion of an inshore site in the Florida Keys. Sci Rep 13, 258 (2023).

For reef framework to persist, calcium carbonate production by corals and other calcifiers needs to outpace loss due to physical, chemical, and biological erosion. This balance is both delicate and dynamic and is currently threatened by the effects of ocean warming and acidification. Although the protection and recovery of ecosystem functions are at the center of most restoration and conservation programs, decision makers are limited by the lack of predictive tools to forecast habitat persistence under different emission scenarios. To address this, we developed a modelling approach, based on carbonate budgets, that ties species-specific responses to site-specific global change using the latest generation of climate models projections (CMIP6). We applied this model to Cheeca Rocks…

Download Full Paper.

New study establishes monitoring framework for evaluating reef persistence under climate change and ocean acidification

Webb, A.E., Enochs, I.C., van Hooidonk, R. et al. Restoration and coral adaptation delay, but do not prevent, climate-driven reef framework erosion of an inshore site in the Florida Keys. Sci Rep 13, 258 (2023).

For reef framework to persist, calcium carbonate production by corals and other calcifiers needs to outpace loss due to physical, chemical, and biological erosion. This balance is both delicate and dynamic and is currently threatened by the effects of ocean warming and acidification. Although the protection and recovery of ecosystem functions are at the center of most restoration and conservation programs, decision makers are limited by the lack of predictive tools to forecast habitat persistence under different emission scenarios. To address this, we developed a modelling approach, based on carbonate budgets, that ties species-specific responses to site-specific global change using the latest generation of climate models projections (CMIP6). We applied this model to Cheeca Rocks…

Download Full Paper.

Front page of "Restoration and coral adaptation delay, but do not prevent, climate-driven reef framework erosion of an inshore site in the Florida Keys" Nature journal article

Looking for scientific literature? Visit our Publication Database.

Recent News

Kayelyn Simmons sits at the desk with three screens in front of her, she examines the one immediately right displaying a photomosaic on the screen with the variety of colors of the coral reef
Celebrating Black History Month:  Meet Oceanographer Kayelyn Simmons

In honor of Black History Month, NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) spoke with Oceanographer Kayelyn Simmons, PhD, about her role at AOML and what Black History Month means to her. Kayelyn is a federal oceanographer at AOML, leading benthic habitat characterization studies using 3D mapping with the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division. Her […]

Engage With Our Science

Research involving Environmental DNA or “eDNA” is an exciting and emerging area of science that can help scientists to manage endangered species, invasive species, and monitor the biodiversity of ecosystems. Learn about environmental DNA through the “Exploring Environmental DNA” video series that covers what “eDNA” is, environmental DNA sampling technology developed at NOAA AOML, and a hands-on activity for DNA extraction.

Video Cover Exploring Environmental DNA: What is eDNA?

Exploring Environmental DNA: What is eDNA?

Under 4 minutes

Video Cover Exploring Environmental DNA: The New Subsurface Automated Sampler for Environmental DNA

Exploring Environmental DNA: The New Subsurface Automated Sampler for Environmental DNA

4:25 minutes

Exploring Environmental DNA: At Home DNA Extraction Demonstration

4:45 minutes

International Partnerships

Maintain Ocean Observing Networks

GO-SHIP brings together scientists with interests in physical oceanography, the carbon cycle, marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems, and other users and collectors of hydrographic data to develop a globally coordinated network of sustained hydrographic sections as part of the global ocean/climate observing system.

Research 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.

Who We Are

| Chris Kelble, Ph.D.

Director, Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems Division

| Jasmin John

Deputy Director, Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems Division