Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems Division

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.

Visit the Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems Division

'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). 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

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?

Visit the Ocean Carbon Cycle Page

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.

Visit the Coral Research Site

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.

Visit the Nutrients Page

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. 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.

Visit the Ocean Acidification Page

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 to provide the scientific information needed for resource managers to make evidence-based decisions about marine resources and protected ecosystems.

Visit the Integrated Ecosystem Assessments Page

Featured 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

Montenero, K., Kelble, C., & Broughton, K. (2021). A quantitative and qualitative decision-making process for selecting indicators to track ecosystem condition. Marine Policy, 129, 104489.

Abstract: Ecosystem indicators are a well-established method for tracking ecosystem conditions and trends with the purpose of informing ecosystem-based management. The selection of indicators is a key step in the management process; however, because 1) selection can be inherently subjective 2) researchers can be entrenched in the ecosystem components they routinely measure, and 3) some voices may be marginalized in a group setting, the selection, prioritization, and consensus processes can be challenging. To overcome these issues, an indicator selection process was developed herein that incorporated expert opinion both qualitatively and quantitatively.

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A quantitative and qualitative decision-making process for selecting indicators to track ecosystem condition

Montenero, K., Kelble, C., & Broughton, K. (2021). A quantitative and qualitative decision-making process for selecting indicators to track ecosystem condition. Marine Policy, 129, 104489.

Abstract: Ecosystem indicators are a well-established method for tracking ecosystem conditions and trends with the purpose of informing ecosystem-based management. The selection of indicators is a key step in the management process; however, because 1) selection can be inherently subjective 2) researchers can be entrenched in the ecosystem components they routinely measure, and 3) some voices may be marginalized in a group setting, the selection, prioritization, and consensus processes can be challenging. To overcome these issues, an indicator selection process was developed herein that incorporated expert opinion both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Read Full Paper

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Looking for scientific literature? Visit our Publication Database.

Recent News

Scientists at AOML Present Coral Research at the First Virtual International Coral Reef Symposium

Coral scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) will be presenting their research at the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) from July 19-23, 2021, which will be held virtually for the first time in the history of the ICRS.

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. Observations are currently underway. Read what it’s like to be aboard a GO-SHIP Research cruise.

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

| Renellys Perez, Ph.D.

Acting Deputy Director, Ocean Chemistry & Ecosystems Division

Our Field Photos