Research Center to Monitor Acid Levels

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Remotely operated vehicles will be plying Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska this summer, measuring acid levels. The float and glider vehicles are the latest technology deployed through a long running monitoring project overseen by University of Alaska Fairbanks Ocean Acidification Research Center Director Jeremy Mathis.

The six-year study has previously relied on measurements taken from fixed buoys, or twice a year from a ship.  The battery and solar powered ROV’s will be at sea for five months, piloted by a technician in Seattle.

Acidification has been observed to be increasing in the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound during the six-year study.  The change is caused by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, which dissolves in the ocean, and reduces carbonate available to creatures, like crabs and shrimp, to build and maintain their shells.  Mathis says Alaska has an additional source of trouble: melting tidewater glaciers.

Mathis said a next step in the project would be documenting the impact, by checking for thinning shells. The acidification monitoring project is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Alaska Ocean Observing System, the National Science Foundation and the state.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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