William Balch, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
“Gulf of Maine North Atlantic Time Series, GNATS: Documenting a Coastal Ecosystem in Transition”

Balch writes of his work:

“I am interested in factors that affect the distribution of phytoplankton in space and time. This work has focused on coccolithophores, which are one of the main sources of calcium carbonate on the globe. More recently, we have focused on ocean acidification. My studies have crossed interdisciplinary lines in 5 areas:

Biocalcification – My laboratory has been studying the factors which regulate biocalcification. This has involved considerable time at sea and in the laboratory. We are synthesizing surveys of calcification in the equatorial Pacific, Arabian Sea, North Atlantic, Patagonian Shelf, and Gulf of Maine.

Bio-optics – These studies have focused on the bio-optical impact of suspended calcite in seawater and remote sensing algorithms used to quantify calcium carbonate concentrations from space. Since 1998 we have maintained an active field program in the Gulf of Maine involving a comprehensive time series of hydrographic, biological, optical and chemical properties (the Gulf of Maine North Atlantic Time Series, or GNATS).

Ocean Color Algorithms for Satellite Remote Sensing – My laboratory has been involved in studying new ways to estimate primary production and calcification from space using remote measurements of ocean color, sea surface temperature, and light. We currently are participating in the U.K. Atlantic Meridional Transect program (http://www.amt-uk.org) to improve satellite algorithms for estimating suspended calcium carbonate.

Algal viruses – We have been performing laboratory experiments on the optical impact of viral infection of marine bacteria and phytoplankton. While viruses on their own have little optical impact, the infection process has profound optical impact as micron-sized cells are converted to submicron particles.

Ocean acidification –  This work has focused on the impact of ocean acidification on phytoplankton. Specifically, we are following changes in phytoplankton community structure, biomass, calcification, and the standing stock of particulate inorganic carbon as a function of increased partial pressure of CO2. One region that we have been focusing on is the Patagonian Shelf region off of Argentina. This is a rich area for coccolithophores and also is expected to be one of the first ocean regions where surface waters will become undersaturated for calcium carbonate.”


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