John W. – BASIS DC

Modeling the Impact of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity

Project/blog link: Modeling the Impact of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity
BASIS Advisor: Dr. Nathaniel Green
Internship location: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Onsite Mentor: Dr. Laetitia Plaisance, Program Manager of Ocean Sciences

Project Abstract

Anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions initiate a reaction that acidifies ocean water and destroys corals, which also destroys marine coral reef ecosystems. The elimination has a negative effect on marine biodiversity, which can have devastating consequences for both marine and terrestrial life. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History's Autonomous Reef Monitoring System (ARMS) Unit tracks biodiversity for an ecosystem in New Zealand that was ravaged by ocean acidification. I will use the data collected from specimen counts and the pH of the ocean to conduct a statistical analysis, and then use this extrapolation to make predictions about the future of biodiversity in the ocean. The data will most likely present a strong correlation between the two variables as a decrease in pH will decrease marine biodiversity, and the extrapolation will likely demonstrate that in the future, biodiversity will continue to decrease to dangerously low levels. The results will be used to identify the possible effects on Earth and its inhabitants, which can range from the destruction of human fishing industries to worsening the effects of climate change. This data will help put the destruction of coral reefs into perspective and identify why it is important to address carbon dioxide emissions. The consequences presented by the data can be used to influence lawmakers to make the correct decisions about policies concerning carbon dioxide emissions.

Modeling the Impact of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity