Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Press Room
MBARI news briefs — 2008

This page describes recent discoveries, achievements, publications, and events at MBARI.
For more information on these stories, please contact Kim Fulton-Bennett:,


^During the OPEREX cruise, Dr. Kolber will be using the University of Hawaii's research vessel Kilo Moana.
31 July 2008:
MBARI scientist leads cruise to study how changing ocean conditions affect marine algae

On July 30, MBARI researcher Zbigniew Kolber began a two-week cruise in the open ocean north of the Hawaiian Islands. During this cruise, Kolber will be directing the Ocean Perturbation Experiment (OPEREX) to find out how changes in the ocean environment (both natural and human-induced) affect the growth of marine algae. The OPEREX cruise is sponsored by the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (CMORE), a multi-institution research consortium dedicated to the study of marine algae, bacteria, archaea, and other microbes, both in the laboratory and in the open ocean. Miriam Sutton, a North Carolina middle-school teacher, will be participating in the research cruise as a Teacher-at-Sea and is writing a blog about her experience.

^The cover of the 2007 MBARI annual report features underwater images of Humboldt squid
22 May 2008:
MBARI's 2007 Annual Report describes effects of climate change on the oceans... and more.

Climate change is affecting the world's oceans in many unpredictable ways, some of which are highlighted in MBARI's 2007 Annual Report. Each spring, this colorful publication highlights a few key research projects undertaken at MBARI during the previous year. One article in this year's report summarizes recent research on Humboldt squid. These and other midwater animals may be affected as water temperatures and oxygen concentrations change in response to increasing carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. Another article describes new instruments that allow oceanographers to measure changing concentrations of oxygen and nitrate (a "fertilizer" for marine algae) in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A third article shows how even life on the deep seafloor, 4,000 meters below the surface, is affected by climate changes such as El Niño. Other stories describe undersea volcanoes off the California coast, methods for monitoring and predicting coastal currents, and new software that lets underwater robots think for themselves. The 2007 Annual Report is available in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format on the MBARI publications web page.

^ MBARI research engineer Zbigniew Kolber tests the photosynthetic efficiency of marine algae.
3 March 2008:
Ocean acidification may affect photosynthesis in marine algae

MBARI researcher Zbigniew Kolber will present findings on the effects of ocean acidification on photosynthesis in the sea at a press conference during the 2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting March 2 through 7 in Orlando, Florida. Kolber’s lab team grew phytoplankton (microscopic marine plants) under conditions that mimic an acid environment predicted 100-300 years into the future. When the pH (the measure of change in acidity) shifted by more than 0.25 units, key steps in the chemical process of photosynthesis were affected. Under conditions typical of the coastal ocean, acidic shifts greater than 0.5 pH units reduced phytoplankton growth rates by 10-20%. Current estimates indicate that upper ocean pH has already shifted 0.1 units worldwide. Phytoplankton generate roughly half of the oxygen we breathe and are often called the “lungs of the planet.” In addition to Kolber’s talk, other MBARI researchers will offer more than 35 presentations during the meeting.

^Researchers test a new oxygen sensor attached to a yellow Argo float used for open-ocean monitoring.
22 January 2008:
Subtropical oceans add oxygen to atmosphere

The subtropical Pacific is a net source of oxygen for the Earth’s atmosphere, according to a new paper published in the Jan. 17 issue of Nature by MBARI marine chemist Kenneth Johnson and Stephen Riser of the University of Washington. Over three-quarters of the ocean’s surface waters are clear and blue and do not sustain much life because they are nutrient poor. For decades, oceanographers have debated whether algae living in these ocean regions are net producers or consumers of oxygen. Indirect measurements indicated that these algae were producing half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, but previous attempts to measure oxygen production directly suggested that these regions were consuming oxygen. A new oxygen sensor enabled Riser and Johnson to measure oxygen production rates in the subtropical open ocean over several years. They found that each fall, the surface waters mix, creating a uniform layer of low-oxygen seawater. Starting in spring, oxygen accumulates steadily about 100 meters below the surface, at a rate that indicates marine algae are producing more oxygen than they consume over the course of the year.

^Scientists study iron fertilization during the 2002 SOFEX experiment
11 January 2008:
Marine scientists question commercial plans for ocean fertilization.

In the January 11 issue of Science magazine, MBARI chemical oceanographer Ken Johnson joined 14 other prominent marine scientists from around the world in stating that there is not enough scientific information to justify selling carbon sequestration credits based on ocean iron fertilization. Several private companies have claimed that they can reduce global warming by dumping large quantities of iron into the ocean. These companies claim that the iron will stimulate the growth of marine algae, which will take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then sink to the seafloor. Johnson and other scientists state that there is not yet enough scientific evidence to determine whether such schemes would be effective. In addition, they suggest that such strategies could pose risks to the marine environment, but that these risks cannot be assessed based on currently available information.

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Last updated: Oct. 07, 2013