Automation of Carbon Flux Explorers for the Study of the Ocean Biological Carbon Pump

Christina at Sea!

Christina Marie Hamilton : Earth and Planetary Science; Marine Science

Mentor: Jim Bishop, Earth and Planetary Science, Professor of Marine Geochemistry

Marine-atmosphere gas exchange plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. A key parameter of oceanic CO2 uptake and sequestration is the biological carbon pump (BCP). The BCP is composed of planktonic organisms that fix CO2 in photosynthesis, converting it to food and tissue. The biomass of these organisms turns over about once every week, exporting the carbon they contain away from the ocean-atmospheric interface to greater oceanic depths as they are consumed and expelled in the form of particulate organic carbon aggregates. This process, known as sedimentation, is currently a large mystery to oceanographers and climate modelers. To parameterize the BCP sedimentation process in ocean and climate modeling, the Bishop research group has designed Carbon Flux Explorers (CFEs)--relatively small but powerful robots-- to study this rapidly changing system on biologically significant time scales. My research project will design, code, and implement data processing algorithms onto CFEs, thus completing total automation of the float robots and contributing to our knowledge of the sedimentation.