Friday, April 09, 2010

Bowdoin College Gets NASA Grant for Climate Change Research

Bowdoin College has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct important multidisciplinary climate change research in the Gulf of Maine. Bowdoin was one of only 25 research institutions selected from among 112 applicants nationwide.

The three-year Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) grant will fund a team of Bowdoin scientists and their colleagues at Michigan Tech, U.S. Geological Survey, Yale, and the University of New Brunswick using NASA satellite imagery to assess the flux and processing of dissolved organic carbon and nutrients from three major river systems (Androscoggin/Kennebec, Penobscot, St. John) draining into the Gulf of Maine.

The project will incorporate historical data sets to develop a baseline of land use and climate change over the past century, and will include models for predicting how hydrology and carbon cycling is likely to be altered with projected changes in land use and climate change over time.

"What's unique about this study is that it is one of the first to use remote sensing of both the terrestrial watersheds and the marine environment to examine global change questions," notes Phil Camill, Rusack Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Earth and Oceanographic Science, a lead investigator in the research.

"We'll be analyzing forested watersheds and wetlands to see how much water, carbon, and nutrients are moving through these ecosystems into the rivers and out into the coastal marine environment. We can study real-time measurements of river discharge and dissolved organic carbon as it flows into the mouth of the estuaries with our buoy-mounted senors. We want to get a handle on how these materials are changing in quantity and quality through river transport and interaction with the coastal ocean currents, which will have broader impacts on socially relevant issues like ground fisheries and harmful algal blooms (red tides)."

Findings from the project will become part of NASA's ongoing investigations of climate change.

The research brings together scientists from diverse backgrounds, with expertise spanning terrestrial remote sensing and GIS, aquatic biogeochemistry, hydrology, carbon isotope analysis, and ocean remote sensing.

Other Bowdoin faculty on the research team include Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies John Lichter; Associate Professor of Earth and Oceanographic Science Collin Roesler; and Professor of Chemistry Elizabeth Stemmler.


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