Chemical Oceanography

Work to understand the chemistry of the ocean and the behavior of elements within it.


  • Climate Change - The effects of climate change now and in the future is the subject of several physical oceanography studies at GSO. By documenting temporal variations of ocean fronts (observed gradients in sea surface temperatures using satellite sensors) and the large-scale current velocities (Gulf Stream speed using current profilers), GSO scientists are able to observe any change […]
  • Deep Microbes - Recent discoveries by GSO biogeochemists in samples from Deep Sea Drilling Program (DSDP) cores taken from the Pacific Ocean have significant implications for the nature and global distribution of life in the sediments of the subseafloor. For example, estimates of Earth’s total living biomass are now 10-45 percent lower than previously thought, and the depth […]
  • From the GSO Seismology Lab Inside Earth - Earthquakes, explosions, pyroclastic flows, and tsunamis can result from oceanic volcanic activity, both from underwater and island volcanoes. Documenting these volcanic edifices and ash flows resulting from eruptions is important in mitigating the resulting hazards to nearby residents. Ocean explorers at GSO routinely discover and map volcanic regions and associated ash flows using Remotely Operated […]
  • The siting of wind turbines relies heavily on overall weather trends in any particular onshore or offshore area. Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions - The atmosphere is primarily comprised of nitrogen and oxygen. Understanding the remaining compounds and gasses, including greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, is critical for addressing air quality concerns. GSO atmospheric chemists utilize airplane-based sensors to measure these minor components as key inputs to transport models defining the residence time (length of time […]
  • A rosette of Niskin bottles and sensors being deployed to sample Antarctic waters. Photo Maria Cases. Ocean Chemistry - Elemental or isotopic tracers reveal geochemical processes of many elements in the ocean. At GSO, measurements of naturally-occurring and bomb-generated radioactive isotopes of Uranium, Thorium and Protactinium in seawater help define processes responsible for the chemistry of seawater and the fate of insoluble and slightly soluble metals in the ocean. Carbon is intimately tied to […]
  • Photo micrograph of a Chaetoceros species from Narragansett Bay. Photo Lucie Maranda. Microbial and Planktonic Diversity - GSO scientists characterize the genetic diversity and distribution of planktonic populations globally over time, space, and in different marine ecosystems. This provides an understanding of basic processes of speciation, selection, and adaption, and how plankton respond to their environments. Examining physical influences on phytoplankton form and function shows how small-scale turbulence affects cell and colony […]
  • Food Web Dynamics - GSO researchers study interactions among phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish to develop an understanding of how energy is transferred and how carbon is exported in polar, temperate, and tropical ecosystems, both coastal and oceanic. By examining the importance of ice algae in Arctic copepod diets and the feeding behavior of Antarctic krill, scientists decipher how the […]
  • Diver in Narragansett Bay Monitoring and Water Quality - Humans influence the marine nitrogen cycle through their additions of nitrogen to the coastal environment, mostly from agricultural fertilizers and waste treatment facilities, leading to eutrophication and oxygen depletion. With novel isotopic tools, GSO researchers follow the movement of nitrogen through marine waters, helping guide intelligent wastewater management policies. How do estuaries respond to changes […]
  • A chart, from the recently-completed Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), depicts surface roughness Science for Coastal Management - The recently-completed Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) brought together talented GSO/URI oceanographers and writers to produce a science-based management and regulatory plan to help stakeholders, managers, and policy makers make wise use of the Rhode Island’s offshore waters (RI Sound, Block Island Sound, and the associated continental shelf region of the Atlantic Ocean). […]