Bodega Ocean Acidification Research (BOAR)
Led by the research groups of Brian Gaylord, Tessa Hill, Ann Russell, and Eric Sanford, the Bodega Ocean Acidification Research (BOAR) consortium is examining spatial and temporal changes in seawater chemistry and the impacts of this variability on the ecology, physiology, and biomechanics of critical nearshore marine invertebrates. Documented, ongoing declines in pH and carbonate saturation state are thought to pose a particular threat to organisms that synthesize calcium carbonate shells and skeletons, which are vulnerable to dissolution in acidified waters.
We are using a three-pronged approach to address this issue, including 1) modern ocean monitoring and past ocean reconstructions to quantify changes in seawater properties over multiple timescales, 2) laboratory experiments to determine impacts on larval, juvenile, and adult stages, and 3) field outplants to evaluate potential consequences accruing in the real world. In conducting this work, we are exploiting the fact that our group is centered at Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) within one of the most intense upwelling centers in the world. Waters rising from depth at our location bathe organisms in seawater characterized by geochemical signatures (low pH and reduced carbonate saturation state) resembling those expected over global scales decades in the future.
Our research is also facilitated by a suite of laboratory and field instrumentation available for the study of ocean acidification:
Oceanographic data are collected at two permanent oceanographic moorings, one located in open-coast waters offshore of BML, and a second within a nearby estuary (Tomales Bay). These moorings are outfitted with SAMI-pH and SAMI-pCO2 sensors that together enable full characterization of the carbonate system. These sensors sample with hourly resolution, with measurements from the BML mooring telemetered directly to a publicly accessible online database, maintained by the Bodega Ocean Observing Node (BOON). Monthly in-situ sampling, accomplished along two oceanographic transects using BML’s 42-foot vessel, the R/V Mussel Point, provides additional discrete samples analyzed for dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), total alkalinity (TA), pH, nitrate, and carbon and oxygen isotopes.
The BOAR Culturing Facility enables marine invertebrate larvae, juveniles, and adults to be raised under rigorously controlled, altered seawater conditions. The system consists of two temperature-regulated seawater tables that bathe multiple glass jars used to culture organisms. The culture vessels are supplied with seawater maintained in equilibrium with air containing specified CO2 concentrations, holding the water’s pH and carbonate saturation state at prescribed levels.
The Trace Elemental Analytical Facility, consisting of an Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emissions Spectrometer (ICP-OES) allows for quantification of minor and trace metals in the shells and skeletons of marine organisms. These metals form part of a suite of geochemical proxies used to develop records of past seawater temperature change in local waters from material contained in sediment cores. We also have regular access to Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometers (IRMS) and ICP-MS instruments (Agilent Quad and Thermo Scientific Element 2), for analysis of stable isotopes and metals in seawater and hard parts of marine organisms. These metals include uranium, a promising tracer of changes in seawater pH through time.
A Taylor-Couette cell provides a means of assessing the strengths of the calcium carbonate shells and skeletons of marine larvae exposed to acidified seawater. Although direct testing of larval structures is difficult due to their tiny dimensions, the mechanical integrity of these structures can be examined by imposing known intensities of hydrodynamic shear stress. For larger (e.g., adult) shells, we employ an Instron materials testing device to quantify the strength of calcified structures.
Research efforts to date have focused primarily on two coastal “foundation species” – species that play disproportionately important roles in communities by providing crucial habitat, or by maintaining essential ecosystem traits. Ostrea lurida, the Olympia oyster, is native to California estuaries and can exert a strong influence on water quality through its filtering activities. The California mussel, Mytilus californianus, is not only a competitive dominant on exposed rocky shores, but also provides habitat for a vast array of fauna that live in the interstices of its beds. We are working to dissect ecological impacts of ocean acidification on several additional taxa of interest as well.
Shellfish Affected by Ocean pH: UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory studies changes in ocean chemistry that may threaten coastal shellfish in California [PDF]
- January 21, 2014 ABC News KGO-TV: Climate change threatening indigenous oysters
- January 18, 2014 The Economist: Ocean Acidification, A Shrinking Problem
- May 30, 2013 Point Reyes Light: Impacts of ocean acidity feed oyster grower’s research
- April 9, 2013 NBC News, Science: Purple sea urchins evolve to survive growing acidity
- April 8, 2013 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Evolution in the face of ocean acidification- Collaborative research between scientists at Bodega Marine Lab and Stanford University reveals that sea urchins may have the genetic variation to adapt to ocean acidification.
- Feb 25, 2013 Science Today, California Academy of Sciences: Scientists, including Jill Bible and Kristy Kroeker from BML, discuss the impact of the ocean’s changing pH levels.
- Dec 10, 2012 University of California Science Today: Native Oysters and Ocean Change
- Oct 5, 2012 Science: Researchers Assess Responses to Ocean Acidification
- Sept 25, 2012 KQED Radio California Report Podcast: Scientists Focus on Ocean Acidification
- July 12, 2012 KWMR Radio Podcast: At Hog Island Oyster Company, Bay Area Teachers Get Real Life Examples of the Effects of Ocean Acidification
- June 6, 2012 Climate Science TV: Ocean Babies on Acid: The Time Machine
- July 20, 2011 KGO-TV/ABC News: Will evolution rescue tidepool animals from climate change?
- July 18, 2011 KQED Radio: Climate Change Threatens California Mussels
- July 18, 2011 The Orange County Register: California mussels: 1st warming casualty?
- July 15, 2011 KQED News ClimateWatch: Study: Climate Change Muscling in on Mussels
- July 14, 2011 UC Davis News and Information: Acid oceans could hit California mussels
- July 1, 2011 National Geographic: How do sea stars cope with warming temperatures? [PDF]
- July 6, 2010 KGO-TV/ABC News: Oysters could hold key to ocean acidification.
- May 22, 2010 KNTV/NBC News: BML researchers study the effects of ocean acidification on Tomales Bay oysters
- April 22, 2010 MSNBC.com: Acidic oceans worsening, experts warn – CO2 impact coming faster than seas can adapt, they say
- April 19, 2010 National Science Foundation News: On ‘Earth Week’: World Is No Longer Our Oyster, Acidifying oceans dramatically stunt growth of already threatened shellfish