The ocean ecosystem is a shared resource that provides food and oxygen while playing an important role in global cycles of carbon and nutrients. The oceans are, however, threatened by a number of human induced changes including increases in temperature, nutrients, CO2 and chemicals. In order to understand how the changing ocean environment influences the biology of marine organisms, scientists must run controlled experiments exploring the effects of many types of stressors, carefully quantifying their individual and combined effects. The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS; www.bios.edu ) - an independent U.S. not-for-profit organization and a Bermuda Registered Charity - is uniquely located on a seagrass and coral platform with easy access to the open ocean of the North Atlantic, providing the opportunity to perform manipulative experiments on a diverse array of organisms. A new Environmental Change Research Facility (ECRF) will be established at BIOS, initiating the capability for studies involving multiple environmental stressors associated with the effects of global climate change. This will consist of two environmental rooms, integrated into the pre-existing flow-through seawater, and CO2 exposure facilities that will allow for experiments at multiple temperatures. Many of the organisms of interest are small in size (i.e. juvenile coral through to bacteria), and many of the processes require specialized stains to visualize. Thus, the facility will also include a new microscope that will allow analyses at a broad range of sizes (petri dish to single cell) and that is capable of quantifying changes in organism development, calcification, and species composition. With the addition of both the environmental chambers and the microscope, the range of experiments that can be run at BIOS will be substantially expanded. BIOS hosts a large number of visiting scientists, and BIOS researchers participate in ongoing scientific collaborations with external scientists, many with NSF-supported research programs, such that the ECRF equipment will have a far reaching impact on the research capacity of the marine sciences community as a whole. The facility will also support the primary goal of the internships and courses at BIOS: to immerse students in experiential learning through research in the ocean sciences. This can be a seminal change for many students whose home institutions lack programs in marine science or the opportunity to conduct independent research. Education experiences at BIOS can influence decisions that determine STEM education and career trajectories, with students leaving our programs better prepared to pursue professional careers and/or graduate programs. The ECRF will provide opportunities to train undergraduate and graduate students in complex multi-stressor studies, fostering a next generation of scientists with the interdisciplinary skillset required to address the pressing questions of environmental change in the marine environment.
One of the major objectives in modern biological oceanography is to understand how the myriad of co-occurring anthropogenic stressors influence marine organisms and determine how these will modify global biogeochemical cycles. The objective of this grant is to establish an Environmental Change Research Facility (ECRF) designed to test and quantify the effects of multiple anthropogenic stressors on the marine environment (including temperature, nutrients, CO2, low O2, and toxicants). Due to its unique location in the oligotrophic North Atlantic gyre, BIOS provides access to a broad array of marine systems, including open ocean, near-shore coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems. The accessibility of these biomes via BIOS?s fleet of research vessels is complimented by the presence of a flowing seawater laboratory and CO2 exposure system where manipulative experiments can be conducted. This grant supports the installation of two environmental rooms that, by providing both thermal stability for process studies and opportunities for controlled multi-stressor experiments, will substantially expand the types of research that could be pursued at BIOS by resident scientists, visiting researchers and students. Many of the organisms of interest ? planktonic zooplankton, calcifying foraminifera or algae, bacteria and viruses, and early-life stages of benthic organisms such as sea urchins and coral ? are quite small. In order to quantify and visualize the response of this wide size-range of organisms, the facility will also include a new microscope, capable of visualizing changes in organism development and calcification, as well as cell enumeration. This instrument will increase the in-house observational capabilities for both preserved and live imaging and provide the capacity to precisely control image positioning to allow for time lapse capture of growth, biomineralization and dissolution. With the addition of this instrumentation, scientists and visiting researchers will be in a position to address the pressing questions of how environmental parameters affect the function of marine organisms, including biomineralization, development, ageing, biogeochemical cycling, community composition, microevolution and subsequently ecosystem function and human health impacts. They ensure the continued success and growth of an already transformative program in microbial oceanography by expanding the capacity to execute and analyze process studies in a controlled environment. Paralleling the benefits to basic research, the ECRF facility will be available for use with student internships and BIOS courses. Since 2011, BIOS has hosted over 800 students annually, most of them from US institutions. The ECRF will provide opportunities to train undergraduate and graduate students to conduct and analyze complex multi-stressor studies, fostering a next generation of scientists with the interdisciplinary skillset required to address the pressing questions of environmental change.