On Wednesday, a team of professors received the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) Grant to conduct research on global change in the Gulf of Maine. The Bowdoin team was one of 25 to receive the $1.5 million grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). One hundred twelve universities and research institutions applied for the three-year long award.
The ROSES grant-winning team is composed of Associate Professors of Biology and Environmental Studies Phil Camill and John Lichter, Associate Professor of Earth and Oceanographic Science Collin Roesler, and Professor of Chemistry Beth Stemmler. Additional researchers from various other institutions, including Yale, Michigan Tech and Texas A&M, will join the four Bowdoin professors in the project.
The project aims to determine how organic matter is processed as it moves from forested watersheds of Maine and New Brunswick, down the St. John, Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers, and into the Gulf of Maine.
"This is the first big assessment of the watershed and Gulf of Maine," said Camill, who will spearhead the effort.
Remnants of dissolved organic carbon outflow into marine ecosystems can create a number of negative environmental consequences, including harmful algal blooms.
Together, the team will locate five sites on each of the three river systems and collect water containing dissolved carbon compounds. They will then use data systems to quantify how much carbon flows down the rivers and into the ocean, and how its chemical compound changes over time.
"The export of organic carbon from land to the ocean is one big area of the global carbon cycle that is not well understood," said Lichter.
"The big picture questions relate to climate change because the major greenhouse gases, CO2 and CH4, are the end products of chemical decomposition of organic matter," he added.
"It's very exciting to be in a position to contribute to global change science," said Lichter. "Bowdoin certainly stands out for a small college in the number of scientists involved in understanding the large-scale changes that humanity is bringing about in the atmosphere, oceans, and terrestrial ecosystems."