In a major development in the bid to deepen the understanding of the role that the ocean plays in climate science, Arizona State University President Michael Crow announced today that ASU, a leading research university, has established a partnership with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), one of the longest-serving research institutes dedicated to studying ocean processes in the Western Hemisphere.
Earth’s ocean is critical to the health of our planet. It covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and acts as a temperature-regulating system by providing dynamic transport of warm waters poleward and bringing cooler waters to the tropics. It also plays a crucial role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and excess heat from global warming, mitigating some of the effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).
But these natural ocean functions are weakening, their dynamics disrupted due to climate change. Understanding how the ocean operates and adjusts to increasing pressures are important factors in determining how the planet will respond to human-induced change.
“Our partnership with BIOS points to the growing awareness of the critical role ocean health plays in Earth’s ability to cope with rising CO2 levels and other human impacts,” Crow said. “When you couple the science-based efforts at BIOS in the Atlantic to our Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science efforts led by Greg Asner in the Pacific, a clearer picture of the overall ocean dynamics and health will begin to come into full view. We expect that this new partnership will be a huge benefit to all Earth scientists seeking a clearer and more concise view of the ‘state of the planet.’”
Video by Stephen Filmer/ASU
BIOS, in St. George’s on the islands of Bermuda, is the premier deep-ocean observatory in the Western Hemisphere. ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory — described as a medical center for the planet Earth — has a wide range of dedicated scientists and scholars working to understand the current state of the planet and its inhabitants, and developing new ways of acquiring and analyzing data from all components of the Earth system and utilizing them to learn about Earth’s health. Together, BIOS and ASU will advance the understanding of the ocean’s contributions to Earth’s overall health and explore what is needed to secure these services into the future.
BIOS anchors a unique part of the global ocean-observing system designed to monitor the real-time physical state of the Atlantic Ocean. The institute has several long-running ship-based monitoring programs and employs a fleet of gliders, or underwater “drones,” that are capable of continuously monitoring changes in the surrounding ocean.
ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory will amplify that work within its mission to “design options for sustained global habitability and improved well-being for all” that will be greatly enhanced by the strengths of BIOS. Together, the partnership will share expertise in ocean sciences to study the highly interlinked, complex problems related to the future of the planet and will put students on the cutting edge of ocean science.
“For BIOS, the merger with ASU provides an excellent growth opportunity by providing a stable career pathway for our scientists, a large pool of excellent undergraduate and graduate students and talented engineers for developing the sensors and robotic systems needed to monitor the inevitable changes in the ocean during the coming decades,” said BIOS President and CEO Bill Curry. “We couldn’t be more thrilled about this opportunity to join with ASU.”
Through this new collaboration, ASU and BIOS together will:
- Develop collaborative, transdisciplinary scientific research projects that span the full range of terrestrial and marine environments.
- Advance new sensor and sampling systems to observe and measure changing Earth systems.
- Apply modern data analytics and computational methods to real-time environmental data streams of critical scientific and societal relevance.
- Provide experiential training and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in global environmental and climate science.
- Form collaborative, transdisciplinary socio-scientific groups that combine insights into physical, biogeochemical, socioeconomic and sociocultural knowledge domains to provide support for critical decisions we have to make to keep our planet healthy, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity, ecosystem services or pollution.
- Integrate the BIOS campus and Bermuda into all aspects of ASU’s efforts with respect to research and education.
Eye on the Atlantic
For more than 100 years, BIOS researchers, visiting scientists and students have worked to explore the Atlantic Ocean and address the global and environmental issues it faces. It does this by operating several of the longest ocean-observing programs: Hydrostation “S”; the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study, or BATS; and the Oceanic Flux Program, or OFP; as well as through its coral reef research.
Hydrostation “S” began in 1954 and monitors ocean temperature and salinity biweekly to address fundamental questions about the physical state of the ocean. It provides the longest-running record of ocean property changes on the planet.
Since 1988 BIOS also has operated BATS, collecting a variety of physical, chemical and biological oceanographic data from the Atlantic Ocean on a monthly basis. Together, these records provide insights on how the ocean carbon cycle, ocean physics and biology are changing naturally and as a result of rising pressures from human activities, such as the increase of atmospheric CO2 over time.
“The multiple decades of data from BATS and Hydrostation ‘S’ provide us with an unparalleled perspective on regional and global ocean dynamics,” noted Nick Bates, BIOS senior scientist and lead BATS investigator. “These time-series programs have given the scientific community new insights into how the ocean responds to variations in Earth’s atmosphere, most recently demonstrating substantial decadal variation and acceleration of surface warming, salinification, loss of oxygen and increasing acidification.”
The monitoring in the Atlantic by BIOS will be paired with the work of an ASU hub in the Pacific Ocean, where a team of Hawaii-based researchers led by Asner are mapping the ocean and its coral reefs at unprecedented levels of detail. Asner’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science and the Allen Coral Atlas initiative are leading to important new understandings of how coral reefs weather ocean heat waves and measuring their resilience in a changing environment.
“From ASU’s perspective, it is critical to add the study of the ocean to the expertise of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory so that we can explore possible future states of our planet in a holistic fashion,” said Peter Schlosser, ASU’s vice president and vice provost of the Global Futures Laboratory. “Given the central role the ocean plays in the dynamics of the Earth system, this is not possible without a strong ocean program – after all, Earth is the water planet. Our partnership with BIOS will expand our expertise in this critical area.”
Schlosser added that it is important to look at the ocean holistically to understand not only what it provides the planet in terms of temperature regulation and the uptake of heat and carbon, but to understand how it handles stressors such as global warming, ocean acidification and the dumping of plastics.
“Our partnership with BIOS will provide a vital link to peer into the ocean, assess its health to see how well it is handling these stressors and to explore what options we have to solve the problems we have already created and anticipate future pressures in order to avoid them altogether,” he said. “Adding a strong ocean program to our capacity in the Global Futures Laboratory will enhance our ability to see the planet more as an intimately interactive system, rather than a conglomeration of disparate parts.”
About Global Futures Laboratory
The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU represents the urgent belief that we can and must make a meaningful contribution to ensuring a habitable planet and a future in which well-being is attainable. The Global Futures Laboratory is the world’s first institution of its kind dedicated to the health of the planet and its inhabitants. It is built upon the deep expertise of ASU and leveraging an extensive network of partners for an ongoing and wide-ranging exchange across all knowledge domains to address the complex social, economic and scientific challenges spawned by the current and future threats from environmental degradation. This platform positions a new world headquarters for an international array of scientists, scholars and innovators and lays the foundation to anticipate and respond to existing and emerging challenges and use innovation to purposefully shape and inform our future. For more information, visit globalfutures.asu.edu.
About Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
BIOS is an independent U.S. nonprofit scientific research and educational organization based in Bermuda and a Bermuda Registered Charity No. 116. For over 100 years, BIOS-based researchers and visiting scientists have worked to explore the ocean and address important local and global environmental issues. Ocean and atmospheric science research programs at BIOS provide a wealth of information that is used by government representatives, environmental resource managers and community leaders to inform their decision-making processes. R/V Atlantic Explorer is a U.S.-flagged UNOLS ocean-class vessel, operated by BIOS, that provides scientists with a platform for conducting short- and long-term studies of the open ocean, providing data to inform our understanding of global climate change, nutrient cycling and ocean-atmospheric dynamics. For more information, visit bios.edu.
Top image: Crew on the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences’ Atlantic Explorer retrieve the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry, which was used as a platform to test a trio of oceanographic instruments aimed at improving the navigation of underwater robots deployed in long-term scientific investigations. ASU and BIOS have entered into a partnership that will lead to a better understanding of ocean health. Photo courtesy of BIOS