News and Events

The Tampa Bay Water Story

TAMPA, FL - The Tampa Bay estuary holds unique characteristics and requires us all to play an active role in keeping our coastal communities healthy. It's a collaborative effort to monitor, maintain and care for Tampa Bay and it is an example of years of work that turned the tides on poor conditions several decades ago. It's crucial now, that we all understand that we have to actively pay attention and as much as we appreciate the beauty of living near the Bay, we have to work together to protect and preserve it for generations to come.



Last modified on Tuesday, 27 September 2016 18:28

Three long short-stories from the Atlantic


Speaker: Dr. Hjálmar Hátún

Affiliation: The Faroe Marine Research Institute

Seminar Title: Three long short-stories from the Atlantic

When: March 4, 2016 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Dr. Anni Djurhuus / Dr. Mya Breitbart

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Last modified on Thursday, 03 March 2016 16:01

Today, the ratio of plastics to fish in the ocean is 1:5

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Every minute, the equivalent of one dump-truck’s worth of plastic is dumped into the sea. By 2050, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This is unthinkable. The USF College of Marine Science is so proud of Frank Muller-Karger’s and CJ Reynolds work with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to help educate the community about plastic pollution. The Current Collections sculpture, made from plastic trash collected in our community, has been given a permanent home in Poynter Park on the USFSP campus. Let’s all make a vow to eliminate or at least reduce our use of plastic bottles, to recycle what we use, and to stop using plastic straws.

Please consider supporting this important initiative by clicking here.

Trace metal chemistry: less is more

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - One billion liters of seawater would be required to gather just 25 grams of iron, yet this trace element is essential to every form of life on the planet.  A group of scarce but biologically important elements in the ocean, referred to as trace metals, can either limit the growth of organisms or be toxic, depending on the concentration.  Dr. Tim Conway has recently joined the College of Marine Science and brings a wealth of understanding of trace metals, in part due to extensive interaction with the International GEOTRACES program, a study of the marine biogeochemical cycles of trace elements and their isotopes.  As a cruise participant and data contributor to the NSF funded U.S. GEOTRACES program, Dr. Conway is intimate with the methods of collecting seawater for trace metal analysis and is instrumental in the creation of compiled products that are used by scientists around the world. 

One of the marquee products of the GEOTRACES program is an electronic atlas of oceanographic profiles in the form of surface to bottom cross-sections that display changes in the concentration of a particular element along the entire path of ocean-traversing cruises (see image below). 

Profile of dissolved iron in the Atlantic Ocean compiled from GEOTRACES cruise data, and available at eGEOTRACES.  Graphics by Reiner Schlitzer.

Dr. Conway’s upcoming projects include a cruise aboard the research vessel of the Angari Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together scientists and the public with the goal of widely communicating important ocean issues.  The cruise will sample the southern jet of the Gulf Stream, charting a course from Florida to the Bahamas. 

Research is also underway to examine the role of circulation, biology, and islands on the distribution of metals and their isotopes in the waters around Antarctica.  The recently completed Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition provides an abundance of data to be tackled by a collaboration of Swiss, Australian, and U.S. based scientists.

Changes in the concentrations of trace metals can have impacts on the environment and, in turn, on society.  Changes to land use can affect concentrations of dust blown iron in the oceans, which can act as a fertilizer to increase productivity of organisms at the base of the food chain.  Alternatively, changes in pollution levels can affect concentrations of trace metals and increase toxicity in areas.  As Dr. Conway notes, “[Trace metals] really can affect where things die and where things live in the ocean.”  Great strides have been made in recent years, and the exciting field of trace element chemistry is poised to provide very useful solutions to environmental challenges.

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 May 2017 12:34

Tracking Sargassum since 2010

St. Petersburg, Fl - Sargassum spp. is a brown macroalgae that is abundant in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Providing food, shade, and shelter to fish, shrimp, crabs, turtles, and other marine organisms, Sargassum serves as an important habitat in the marine ecosystem. However, excessive Sargassum landing on the beach represents a nuisance and health hazard, which is also a burden to coastal management, local tourism and economy. In 2015, many beaches in the Caribbean and Mexico suffered from Sargassum landing, with numerous news reports on their local impacts. To date, however, no one knows what caused the dramatic increases in Sargassum landing in 2015.

The Optical Oceanography Lab ( has been tracking Sargassum since 2010 using satellite imagery and numerical models, and has provided near real-time daily imagery on the Web. A recent effort by PhD student Mengqiu Wang led to the findings that the aerial coverage of Sargassum in the central West Atlantic in 2015 is at least 4 times of the coverage in 2011 when major Sargassum landing on the Caribbean beaches were also widely reported. The reasons behind such an increase, however, still remain to be explained.

Washington Post Article: Mexico deploys its navy to face its latest threat: Monster seaweed

Last modified on Tuesday, 03 November 2015 16:44

Training Fijians to Monitor their Coral Reefs

Viti Levu, Fiji - "With the support of USAID’s Pacific-American Climate Fund (PACAM), the University of South Florida is training local mapping experts from the University of Fiji to utilize advanced geographic information system (GIS) platform services. The system’s satellite imagery provides a tool for rapid and accurate assessments that can be compared over time and with other locations. This will improve the University of Fiji’s mapping techniques for future research and environmental impact assessments. The team visited the project sites in Fiji and reviewed field data collection and verification procedures."

"Through USAID/PACAM’s grant to the Developing Base Maps of Tropical Aquatic Resources in the Pacific project, PACAM is helping the University of Fiji to use GIS technology in mapping and monitoring the reefs surrounding Votua Ba and Maui Bay on the Fijian island of Viti Levu. This project will enable the Fijian government and the communities to protect their coastal and marine resources for the future." - quoted from USAID Weekly Update newsletter. 

Tropical Storm Hermine bearing down on USF C12 buoy

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - USF's C12 research and monitoring buoy is 220 nautical miles (253.171 miles) from Tropical Storm Hermine's center and now seeing winds gusting over 40 knots. The path of the storm should take the center slightly to the north of C12's position on the west Florida Shelf.

C12 Research and Monitoring Buoy Live Data Feed

Last modified on Thursday, 01 September 2016 18:12

Tuna is Delicious & Other Lessons Learned from the Japanese Longline Fishery


Speaker: Dr. Robert Ahrens

Affiliation: University of Florida

Seminar Title: Tuna is Delicious & Other Lessons Learned from the Japanese Longline Fishery

When: Sept. 30, 2016 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Liz Herdter/Murawski Lab

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Last modified on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 17:11

Turbulent cascades and intermittency in winds over the Tropical Pacific


Speaker: Dr. Greg King

Affiliation: Institute of Marine Sciences (CISC) Barcelona, Spain

Seminar Title: Turbulent cascades and intermittency in winds over the Tropical Pacific

Seminar Abstract: Under typical conditions, turbulent fluid motions are three-dimensional and energy cascades from large scales to small scales. However, in the atmosphere over the range of scales governing weather henomena (the mesoscales: 2-2000 km), geophysical constraints (stratification, rotation, thin atmosphere) decouple motions into layers.  This quasi-two-dimensional flow motivates a picture of stratified turbulence with an upscale cascade (from small scales to large scales). To test this picture of turbulence requires an observational dataset of global winds -- an enormous undertaking.  Attempts to provide a definitive answer on the cascade direction eluded investigators until Erik Lindborg (1999) proposed a test based on Kolmogorov's third-order structure function law (the most rigorous result in turbulence theory). This test, when applied to a dataset of global upper troposphere winds, indicated, to great surprise, that the cascade was downscale.

In this talk I will describe the application of the third-order structure function test to the mesoscale winds over the Tropical Pacific Ocean. The winds we studied were measured from space by instruments (called scatterometers) carried on the NASA QuikSCAT satellite and the European MetOp-A satellite.  Our analysis supplied further surprises: evidence for both upscale and downscale cascades, depending on geographical region and season. Our results show that turbulence models need to include information about air-sea interaction.

When: March 24, 2016 3:30pm EST

Where: MSL Conference Room (134)

Host: Boris Galperin

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Last modified on Tuesday, 22 March 2016 16:49

Two CMS researchers to participate on IODP Expedition 374 to the Ross Sea, Antarctica

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - CMS Ph.D student Imogen Browne and CMS Assistant Professor Amelia Shevenell have been selected to sail on International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 374 to the Ross Sea, Antarctica in early 2018. The two month expedition will drill sites in the Ross Sea that will enable a better understanding of the evolution of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet over the last 20 million years. Reconstructing ice sheet response during past warm climates is critical for modeling and predicting future ice sheet response and global sea level rise. This expedition was first proposed by Shevenell and her collaborators in 2012, following a workshop at USF CMS. Both Browne and Shevenell will sail as two of the ten Americans in the 35 member international science party.

The two month expedition aboard the D/V Joides Resolution, will leave from Wellington, New Zealand in January of 2018. Browne will sail as a Physical Properties specialist and Shevenell will lead a team of eight Sedimentologists. Post cruise, the two will conduct geochemical analyses of the recovered sediments to understand the role of ocean temperatures in West Antarctic Ice Sheet evolution

Last modified on Thursday, 26 January 2017 22:14

Underwater robots will assess grouper population

ST. PETERSBURG, FL -USF Researchers will see if robots gliding through the Gulf collecting fishery data performs better than more traditional collection tools like fixed receivers. Chad Lembke is adding extra sensors on autonomous gliders that will move underwater for months at a time. Adding extra features like tag telemetry provides specific fish identification and its becoming the fastest emerging technology to count fish. Gliders provide continuous surveillance around the clock and reach areas too sensitive for trawls.

Ocean observing needs continuous real time data and this has typically focused on physical observing systems like buoys, HF radars that feed into models. But to get spatial information, these robots will act like pick-up trucks cutting through the ocean collecting more than just physical parameters. For the first time USF oceanographers will look at red grouper over a long period of time along the 30-60 m isobath over the Gulfstream Natural Gas pipeline. Echosounders will look at fish size and determine species level classification.

Last modified on Friday, 06 November 2015 17:16

Update from Christian Haller on the JOIDES Resolution

IODP JOIDES Resolution Expedition 356 Indonesian Throughflow August-October 2015, North West Australian Shelf





September 30, 2015 - On Land



Today we disembarked  in Darwin, NT. It is very hot. We've been to the crocodile zoo already down the road (petting and cuddling some python snakes and blue-tongue goanas etc....). This time the next crew came on board very quickly. The first techs entered. And the science crew will come tomorrow. We had a little crossover party at the bar next to the hotel where everybody is staying. They will have a 17 days transit to the Maledives.... which will limit their drill time significantly compared to ours. We had about 3-4 days of transit all together and no standby waiting at all. We also had 6km of core planned and recovered 4-5km. We can be very proud. In fact, Montserrat, who was Post-doc in the CMS paleo lab until 2 years ago will be planktic foraminifera paleontologist on the following expedition. I bought her old Toyota when she moved to Spain. Pity I did not meet her at the bar.

Anyway, after some Australian beers (they are much better than the watery US beers) I now had to to go bed so I can get up early tomorrow and drive into my 1-week camping trip at Kakadu National Park. Keep fingers crossed I won't end as croc snack or bitten by any other reptile or drive on  the wrong side of the road. Esp getting into the left lane at intersections might be critical.It's hot despite being winter/spring. I'll have to pack lots of water. But there will be spectacular hikes and waterfalls along and on top of the sandstone escarpment in Kakadu. I'll take lots of photos.



September 23, 2015 - Problems at site #6

We are in the middle of operations at the last site and wanted to log the deepest RCB hole (about 800 m). Then after logging it was planned to drill one extra APC/XBC hole till time runs out and we have to run to Darwin. So yesterday night they cleared the drillfloor and spider floor/moonpool floor because of the special logging tool with a nuclear source passing by.

We had our set of table tennis matches (the semi-finals) and then went to bed.

Of course it did not go so well with the nuclear source. This is the first time we apply this thing and promptly it got stuck on the way back up near 500 m. Now the drillers are slightly nervous because they don't want to lose that thing. Losing logging tools is expensive (six to eight figures) and especially lost nuclear sources also cause lots of paperwork. They started drilling over the whole with the logging string still in the center. Very complicated task. Special operations! Nevertheless, this will take quite some time.... up to 24h and possibly means that we cannot drill another APC hole before heading for Darwin. Meh.


September 19, 2015 - More from Christian Haller on the JOIDES Resoltion

"I will be back in St. Pete in the second week of October. The first week I'm going to spend at the Kakadu National Park camping and hiking in the desert and sandstone cliffs (300km southeast of Darwin). I'll drive a big loop and maybe also visit Litchfield Park which is said to have very pretty hiking and pools with waterfalls as well. They have many aggressive saltwater crocodiles. The saltwater crocodiles are said to be much worse than the almost tame alligators. Freshwater sharks are also in the rivers of course waiting at river crossings together with the crocodiles. I hope I'm going to have a blast. It's already a lot hotter now that we crossed the tropic of capricorn. The water is condensing on the windows of the ship.

I think we left the main gas fields and Barrow Island south of us. Some LNG tankers are coming by on the shipping routes, but no more rigs. The last site is going to be tight. We won't have much time for transit either. Only 2 days for wrapping up reports and cleaning the lab (and that will be the longest transit we ever had on this expedition). The chiefs and the staff scientist are scheduling every hour of operation very precisely. The next cruise starting from Darwin going to the Maldives will directly have 2 weeks of transit from the start. A luxury we never had. “


September 19, 2015 - Kite Kontest

Today was kite flying day. I did my best to get my little construction up in the air, but I think we all have to practice a little more. The engine exhausts near the helipad create some bad turbulences which is not good for starting kites. Well, I tried. In the end mine crashed and broke a strut. I will replace the broken stick tonight and try flying again tomorrow! Btw, we are coring at the last site near the Rowley Shoals atolls.


September 15, 2015 - Expedition coming to an end

We have two more weeks to go and we are in the middle of the work at the second but last site. That means things now have to be planned very precisely by how much time they cost.

First, the co-chief tries to sell everyone the contingency hole at the last site. I think there is an alternative for each site, but in this situation he thinks the alternative is actually better than the set one. The problem is that the alternative is much deeper and the current site for once yielded un-dolomitized microfossils for geochemists (and anyone else who needs them). So this morning started a big haggling between some people and the chief-scientists for extending the time coring here and possibly getting a splice.

The chief-scientist rather wants to find out about the one drowned Rowley Shoal atoll reef and subsidence that killed off that particular atoll (the other atolls are still alive). He does not plan to go much deeper at the current site beyond some shallower triple APC.

The issue has to be resolved within 24h and I am curious if they can come up with a compromise. A spreadsheet will be put together with all the possible APC, RCB and depth/ drill duration options.

It's getting quite tense.


August 30, 2015 - Rinse and repeat

Yesterday night we finished logging at the last site where we hunkered down for two weeks in order to drill four holes which will be the deepest ones of this expedition. We had a very short transfer of 6h while the hump day party was raging at the forward tween deck. This transit would have been even shorter if we didn't have had to keep some minimum distance to the oil rigs surrounding us. Waking up for my shift would have meant that we got started at the new site with cores every 15 minutes. But I did not hear the "Core On Deck" announcements on my room after getting up. The reason was that the Half Length APC bent and got stuck in the barrel directly on the first section. Again, like at the very first station we hit a superficial hard layer. The drill bit will be lost and the wire has to be cut. XCB will cut the hard ground, but yield a very poor recovery in the underlying soft muds. We'll have to switch back to APC as quickly as possible.  


August 21, 2015 - Arrival in warmer waters

After the Perth Basin, our present station is in the Carnarvon Basin, one of NW Australia's busiest gas fields. In fact it looks very crowded on the map, but FPSOs and drilling rigs are far away from us. Nevertheless, gigantic gas flares can be seen night and day and are good reference points for when the JR was turned into the wind again.

Now that we got into the core flow at this new site, we traded one inconvenience for another. The previous cores contained ample sponge spicules. And sooner or later everyone had them on their hands even if you were as careful as ever. I picked my micropaleontology samples in rubber gloves to keep those pesky needles at bay. In fact, the transparent spicules floated on top of the samples after sieving and settled highly concentrated on the sample surface. The rumor went around that at some point we even contaminated the bathroom... haha. 

Here at the new site spicules are less abundant, but we got very strong H2S outgassing. Techs are wearing little senors which warn you before you take a whif too deep of this smelly gas and become a headless chicken. Even if critical concentrations are mostly not reached outdoors, the stink now permeates the core laboratory and goes down the staircase all the way to the mess. Additional to the H2S we also got a pungent hydrocarbon smell in some cores. Gas pressure can get very high during recovery to the surface. The catwalk has to be shielded while the liner is pulled out of the pipe since pieces of sediment might become projectiles. Gaps in the sediment caused by the gas have to be closed again by the techs with a piston.


August 17, 2015 - Arrival in warmer waters

We drilled the second site with two holes and found a very homogenous and expanded Pleistocene stratigraphy (and by homogenous I mean sedimentologically quite boring).

Anyway, we were accompanied by breaching Humpback whales and curious Humpback calves circling the JR.

The last two days were our longest transit from the southern sites to the northern site area. We passed Shark Bay on the right and came across bioluminescent jellyfish and little brown/orange seasnakes. We just became stationary again in visibility distance to a big industrial drilling rig and a production rig with a very big flare (otherwise we wouldn't be able to see it). That means we will have competition..... But despite this new site is going to be our deepest one (we're set to drill two holes), we are not planning to get down into the hydrocarbon bearing strata. Too dangerous. Things are now being set up for the core flow routine in the labs and rigfloor. Countdown is ticking. We're using the last remaining hours and minutes for report writing and reviewing or snake watching. Given our previous experience we are curious how conducive the geology is to coreing it with the Full APC. With the Half APC in the last sites the paleo team drowned in Core Catcher samples which needed preparation... having had a core on deck every 20 minutes.


August 12, 2015 - We got a winner

One of the photos of me was among this week's photos that will be uploaded to Facebook. Notice my trusted Zeiss microscope with camera and the blue pocket-sized SEM next to me. In the background there's the rigwatch drilling monitor which can also be switched to rigfloor camera.... or in case of important sport event... to that.

The second picture shows one of the lucky Japanese geochemists who got a special ticket for a core sneak peek before the very first hole was spudded. The PAL team gets the core catchers, which can be processed immediately. In contrary, the sedimentologist team will have to wait 5 hours before they can saw open the cores because they want the sediment to warm up and equilibrate with the laboratory room temperature.


August 9, 2015 - Waiting on Weater to drill the K/Pg?

After Holes A and B were drilled a lot was learned about the local characteristics of dolomitized limestones and how they have to be drilled through. We do have the unfortunate back and forth between soft and hard layers here at our first site. The nanno paleontologists found out that we reached the Miocene target age much before the planned total depth of around 300m. Anyway, the co-chiefs applied for an extension to about 400m total depth since chances are good that the PETM and the K/Pg boundary could be drilled in those following meters. This is in so far interesting since the K/Pg boundary is NOWHERE in whole Australia present. A a high impact publication might be due if that older rock, which was NOT in the scientific prospectus might be hit. During the meeting Craig (UTIG) could confirm that IODP in Texas gave green light to drill deeper since safety concerns are rather non-existant. No methane was detected in the geochem. lab. Right now we are WOWing (waiting on weather) because some very high swell is coming in from Antarctica and creating waves 4-5 m high. That is no problem for the ship, but exceeds the capabilities of the heave compensator. At least until Monday morning we will have to hold out. Nevertheless, the waves didn't stop the Sunday barbecue on deck below the bridge. But you better hold tight to the table when eating your steak on 5 m waves. And also bring a coat, it's quite chilly and windy outside with only 15 degrees. Even the water is 21 degrees.

Many people might gain some kg here. Warm meals are served every 6h. After a first excitement I learned to tone it down from 3 hot meals to only one plus some yoghurt...haha It's good, waiting when you arrive, and very plentiful.


August 4, 2015 - Roots down!

It's going to get busy soon.

Thrusters have been lowered, the Philippinos started working around on the drillfloor, I got a live camera screen next to me to see when the cores are popping up and it's my call to run out and get the core catcher for the paleo people. In two hours, they announced, the first sediments will hit the deck, go into the prep lab and then land under my "Beer" microscope. The microscope units got funny names to keep things clear. Jeroen (Dutch) from Bremen, next to me, is working with "Skull", the nanno microscope in my back used by Jorentje (Dutch) is called"Strawberry", the off-shift girl from Indonesia works with "Grape" for her nannos.

The paleo people started handing out tickets to people who can have the very first look at sediments. We are very sought after, since the sedimentologists will have to wait at least 5 hours until they can have a look at their cores. The reason is that the sediment will first sit on racks in the lab to equilibrate with lab temperature, go through the whole core analyses, and then get split in half. The core catchers for micropaleo though don't require all these processes and can be preped directly and analyzed after.

We're fed round the clock . They cook almost round the clock and for multiple shifts since science and support crews are on different schedules.


For more information visit

Last modified on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 20:08

Update from the WCOA Cruise

THE STRAIT OF GEORGIA, June 6, 2016 - USFCMS students Katie Douglas, Erin Cuyler, and Jonathan Sharp of Bob Byrne’s lab along with researcher Sherwood Liu are currently participating in the fifth West Coast Ocean Acidification Cruise (WCOA). After sampling our final transect off the coast of British Columbia, we are now steaming southeast toward our destination of Seattle as we near the conclusion of the 2016 WCOA Cruise. We’re traveling through a portion of the beautiful “Inside Passage” between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, hitting a few more sampling stations along the way. We’ve had the pleasure of seeing a good deal of wildlife here in the passage, along with some absolutely spectacular vistas of the Canadian wilderness.

Following our one-day stop in San Francisco (that became a two-day stop due to a mechanical issue), we moved methodically up the coasts of northern California, Oregon, Washington, and southern British Columbia. This second leg of the cruise proceeded much like the first, with CTD casts along a number of lines extending from coastal to offshore waters. The seas became surprisingly tranquil after we endured some imposing swells toward the end of our first leg. Without the relentless lurching of the ship to hold us back, our team became a well-oiled machine—churning out measurements of pH and carbonate at an impressive clip.

As a result of those many measurements (over 3,500 in total!), we have formulated some preliminary impressions regarding the chemical state of the California Current System. We’ve seen the expected indicators of seasonal coastal upwelling: relatively acidic waters with low carbonate concentrations were detected at increasingly shallow depths as we approached the coast. Additionally, we’ve observed a few surprising “hotspots” where corrosive waters (particularly low in pH and calcium carbonate saturation state) seem to have upwelled into the upper reaches of the water column!

As Katie discussed previously, it’s up to the biologists aboard the Brown to assess exactly what these corrosive waters will mean for organisms in the region. We, on the other hand, will concern ourselves with determining the origin of the corrosive waters. Likely they result from a combination of highly-respired (low-pH) deepwater transported from below and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide input from above, but other unanticipated factors may play a role. We’ll continue to evaluate our chemical data to investigate these processes as we aim to quantify the magnitude of each factor.  Furthermore, we will be correlating our chemical data with physical oceanographic observations, such as current patterns and wind speeds, to more fully understand how water mass movements drive the chemistry we’ve observed.

We’ll also compare our pH and carbonate measurements with corresponding measurements of other CO2 system parameters. This is a typical procedure that is vital for any carbon chemistry cruise. Comparison between interrelated measurements serves as a validation mechanism and promotes consistency between the analyses of each group of ocean chemists.

Personally, the 2016 West Coast Ocean Acidification Cruise has been an incredibly positive experience for me. Though it’s not easy to be away from friends and family for so long, I am thrilled that I’ve had the chance to participate in such a major oceanographic expedition. I’m sure that the knowledge I’ve gained from my peers, the expertise I’ve developed in carbon chemistry measurements, and the connections I’ve made with friends both new and old will be instrumental in my growth as a scientist.

If you’d like to know more, follow along with the 2016 WCOA Cruise blog.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA, May 23, 2016- CMS students Katie Douglas, Erin Cuyler, and Jonathan Sharp of Bob Byrne’s lab along with researcher Sherwood Liu are currently participating in the fifth West Coast Ocean Acidification Cruise (WCOA)

 Golden Gate Bridge

Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge! (Photo credit: Katie Douglas)

After two weeks of sampling and measuring seawater off the west coast of Mexico and southern California and braving some rough seas, we headed into port on Saturday, May 21st, for a short stop in the City by the Bay.  Some of the scientists we have worked alongside are ending the cruise here, and others will be joining us for the second leg of the cruise as we steam north toward British Columbia. 


The NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown comes into port at the Exploratorium in San Francisco on Saturday, May 21st, 2016. (Photo credit: Mary Miller)


On Saturday, we docked at the Exploratorium in downtown San Francisco, and the museum held a special event for the public about ocean acidification (OA) and the research we have been doing aboard the ship.  Our chief scientists, Dr. Richard Feely and Dr. Simone Alin of NOAA-PMEL in Seattle, spoke about the changing chemistry of the oceans and the impacts these changes are having on coastal and marine ecosystems. 


I often get asked by friends and family why I chose to do my research in the north Pacific when I go to school in Florida.  The west coast is an especially critical area for OA research, as it is an oceanographic region where we observe acidification and subsequent ecosystem responses happening rapidly.  The water that upwells along the west coast is cold, rich in CO2, and has a low pH and a low concentration of carbonate ions.  Shell-building organisms such as oysters, corals, crabs, pteropods, scallops, and snails need carbonate to build their homes, but water with a low carbonate ion concentration poses a great risk to these organisms, as this water can cause shells to thin, weaken, and develop holes.  The challenge of corrosive seawater also affects top predators, as many of the organisms that live in carbonate shells are food to birds, larger fish, sea lions, whales – and us humans too! 


The biological implications of OA necessitate an interdisciplinary approach to our research, so in addition to the carbon chemists (like Erin, Jon, Sherwood, and me) who are making routine measurements of seawater throughout the cruise, we also have a group of biological oceanographers aboard.  These biologists are from other universities and government institutions in the US, Canada, and Mexico (hooray, international collaboration!), and their investigations complement the chemical story of OA.  One of our biology teams is collecting pteropods, the tiny “sea butterflies” that serve as food for some of the largest marine animals, and exposing them to levels of CO2 that we expect to see in the atmosphere and oceans over the next century.  They are then measuring the pteropods’ physiological responses, such as respiration, to learn how well pteropods can adapt to the changing ocean conditions that we anticipate from OA.  Other biologists are investigating bacterial growth and abundance in waters with high CO2 levels.  One team is researching how warming oceans and high CO2 levels contribute to the development of harmful algal blooms, large-scale growths of planktonic organisms that emit toxins that can harm fish, birds, and large marine animals.  From these investigations, we hope to learn more about how the ecosystems of the west coast are changing in response to OA.


Although they are tiny, pteropods like those seen here are a major source of food for marine predators. Their spiral shells are especially susceptible to damage from ocean acidification. (Photo credit: Melissa Ward)


Aboard the ship, we say, “Science never sleeps,” and it’s true.  Around-the-clock operations mean that someone is always sampling, running experiments, or measuring some chemical parameter. For the next two weeks as we steam north, Erin, Jon, Sherwood, and I will be continuing our measurements of pH and carbonate ion concentration, and these measurements will help contribute to our understanding of the dramatic changes in ocean chemistry and biology happening in the eastern Pacific.


Written by Katie Douglas


If you’d like to know more, check out the 2016 WCOA Cruise blog.



NORTHEASTERN PACIFIC, May 15, 2016 - USFCMS students Katie Douglas, Erin Cuyler, and Jonathan Sharp of Bob Byrne’s lab along with researcher Sherwood Liu are currently participating in the fifth West Coast Ocean Acidification Cruise (WCOA)

The R/V Ronald H. Brown, where I presently sit, is floating in the northeastern Pacific somewhere around 32° N 120° W (west of the California-Mexico border from the coastal point of view). It’s three in the morning on a Sunday. And though that may represent a late weekend night for some, I’m already well into my midnight to noon daily shift.

Over the past 10 days, our four-scientist team has worked around the clock to gather (so far) almost 1,000 discrete samples of Pacific seawater from a variety of depths and locations offshore of Western Mexico and Southern California. We’ve collected these samples for immediate measurements of pH and carbonate ion concentration, work that is a major part of the 2016 West Coast Ocean Acidification Cruise.

This year’s WCOA Cruise—operated by NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL)—is the fifth of its kind, involves 17 different institutions, and has been touted as the most integrated WCOA Cruise to date. This means that in addition to the chemical measurements you may typically associate with ocean acidification, many other factors are being assessed: pteropod abundance, bacterial diversity, physical oceanographic models, and harmful algal blooms to name a few. The cruise departed from San Diego on May 5th, and measurements will span from Baja California to British Columbia.

In our case, we are employing highly accurate manual techniques for analysis of pH and carbonate ion concentration of bottled samples. We’re also operating an underway system for carbonate chemistry measurements that automatically analyzes surface seawater flowing from an intake point on the ship. These measurements will provide important information to evaluate the present chemical state of the California Current System, as well as how it is changing over time (the 2016 WCOA cruise will occupy study areas assessed in previous WCOA cruises).

Day-to day life has been fantastic on the ship. We’re eating quite well, enjoying some wildlife sightings, and even playing ping pong in our downtime (there’s a table in the main lab right next to our workstation!). In six days time, we’ll be stopping for a day in San Francisco. There we’ll swap out some scientists for the second leg of the cruise and hold an outreach event at the Exploratorium.

From San Francisco, we’ll trek northward toward Seattle and Vancouver, collecting many more samples along the way. We’ll check in again soon enough; until then, let’s all hope for calm waters and stable measurements!

Written by Jonathan Sharp

If you’d like to know more, check out the 2016 WCOA Cruise WCOA.


Last modified on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 13:37

USF Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - The physical ocean conditions determine where organisms can thrive or famish.  Monitoring the chemistry and movement of water west of Florida is critical in forecasting oil spill trajectories, red tides, or fishery productivity.  

USF Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System is a network of instruments watching over the West Florida Shelf which include offshore buoys. They link deep ocean processes to the estuaries by feeding data into West Florida Coastal Ocean Model.  See how the buoys are deployed off the RV Weatherbird II in the video below.

USF College of Marine Science Celebrates Clam Bayou Marine Education Center

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Among the many accomplishments the USF College of Marine Science will celebrate this week as it marks its 50th anniversary is the creation of its Clam Bayou Marine Education Center, where hundreds of children and adult learners convene each year to learn about the wonders beneath Florida’s waters.

Read the full article

Last modified on Saturday, 08 April 2017 12:13

USF Giving Tuesday 2015

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Thanksgiving, or the giving of thanks, is a great thing and the Ocean gives us multiple reasons to be thankful. Today, and in the days, months and years ahead, we give thanks to the Ocean:

  • For the air we breathe
  • For the food that sustains us
  • For stabilizing the climate
  • For forgiving us our human foibles

On December 1, 2015 we will celebrate #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. The University of South Florida College of Marine Science will proudly participate in #GivingTuesday by joining a vast network of organizations and individuals who have come together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. We invite you to join us and give thanks to the Ocean!

Please join us in support of #USFGivingTuesday by making a gift of $19.56 (or more) in honor of the year USF was founded. Click below to help provide USF College of Marine Science the opportunity to achieve our research and educational goals.

Click here to Make A Gift

#GivingTuesday 2015 Images

Last modified on Thursday, 03 December 2015 14:32

USF Glider Deployed to Track Fish and Red Tide

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - USF's COT and CMS staff deployed one of their Slocum gliders for a 30-day research mission in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. "Sam" is equipped with a myriad of technologies to collect data during its mission as it yo-yo's up and down through the water column. Measurements are geared toward understanding subsurface water variables such as temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and fluorescence.

This project adds acoustic technologies for tracking tagged fish, marine animals that make sound, and acoustical backscatter. The deployment is the result of collaborations with several groups at FWRI, NOAA, FIO, iTAGGCOOS and private industries.

For more information visit CMS Ocean Technology Group.


Last modified on Friday, 19 May 2017 17:12

USF Marine Scientists Take Major Role in International Conference on Keeping the Gulf of Mexico Healthy

TAMPA, FL - Faculty and graduate students from the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science will take a major role in the 2016 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference held in Tampa Feb. 1- 4 at the Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel, 700 S. Florida Avenue.

The international conference aims to bring together hundreds of oil spill experts representing academia, state and federal agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and industry who will share the latest oil spill and ecosystem scientific discoveries, innovations and policies. Many of the results from 2015’s summer research will be presented.

Read the full article here

Last modified on Friday, 29 January 2016 15:21

USF Researchers Featured in Student Conservation Film

TAMPA, FL - The film Tampa Bay Water Story, created by Katy Hennig, a graduate of the Digital Journalism and Design program at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, has earned an Honorable Mention and selected to be screened at the Blue Ocean Film Festival, November 10-13, 2016. The International film festival is an annual water conservation summit, showcasing films from a variety of filmmakers around water sustainability and conservation. 

View the full article

Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2016 17:31

USF scientists find oil still present from 1979 Mexico spill similar to Deepwater Horizon

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - For 40 days, scientists aboard a Florida-based research vessel prowled the gulf waters, looking for signs of the past, hoping it would give them hints of the future.

Read full article here

USF Scientists Spend 40 Days At Sea Looking For Evidence Of Oil

TAMPA, FL - The University Beat radio report on the College of Marine Science’s latest work in the Gulf of Mexico will air on WUSF 89.7 FM on Tuesday, August 23 at 6:45 a.m., 8:45 a.m. and 5:44 p.m. It will also run on WSMR 89.1 and 103.9 FM Monday, August 29 a little after 10:25 p.m., following Florida Matters.

The radio report will be online Tuesday at and They are planning on running a similar story on WUSF TV’s half-hour University Beat program next month. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 16:59

USF students featured in Oceanography Special issue on Graduate Education

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - The March 2016 special issue of Oceanography (Graduate Education) features a few of our graduates.  Kara Vadman is featured on the cover, and Michelle Guitard and Kara are featured Pages 1 and 2 of the Introduction. Congratulations Kara Vadman and Michelle Guitard.

Oceanography v. 29 Isuue 01

Special Issue on Graduate Education in the Ocean Sciences