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Climate Change Research Used to Educate the Next Generation of Ocean Scientists

Published on: 04/19/2011
Research Area(s): Coastal Change

The U.S. Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (GLOBEC) program is making it possible for today’s graduate students to learn about cutting-edge climate change research that will prepare them for careers in this growing scientific field.

Through the program, students gain exposure to cross-disciplinary modeling approaches through the efforts of Dr. Dale Haidvogel from Rutgers University, who chairs the U.S. GLOBEC scientific steering committee.

“A unique legacy of the GLOBEC program has been its advancement of the practice of interdisciplinary science,” Haidvogel said, “The training of graduate students and post-graduate scientists in these new practices has been an integral part of the GLOBEC program since its beginning. Now these educational activities are taking on important new forms as we enter the final phase of the program.”

Understanding how to make linkages between climate and ecosystem models is a complex problem. U.S. GLOBEC has spent more than a decade studying how ocean ecosystems work to see what might happen when the world’s climate changes. A few regions have been studied extensively – the Northwest Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod, the Northeast Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Oregon and Alaska, and the Southern Ocean bordering Antarctica.

Through years of sampling in these regions, GLOBEC gained knowledge of how the ecosystem functioned from plants at the base of the food chain, through microscopic animals known as zooplankton, and to fish and higher predators such as birds and whales. That knowledge is incorporated in computer models to predict future states of the ocean and resulting effects on ecosystems.

However, increased knowledge and advanced modeling tools created by GLOBEC are only useful if future scientists are trained to use them. In recognition of this, Haidvogel arranged for a two-week summer colloquium at the National Center for Atmospheric Research to expose graduate students who applied to the models and analysis tools available to study interactions between climate and marine ecosystems.

GLOBEC’s integrated approach to studying climate-ecosystem interactions is unique – such a cross-discipline approach to science is typically not offered in standard university courses. The colloquium will include students from various climate and marine ecosystem communities to foster interactions at early stages of their careers, and to train them in ecological forecasting techniques.

By making scientific advances known and training young scientists in modeling techniques developed, U.S. GLOBEC is educating the workforce of tomorrow to tackle the daunting problems associated with climate change and the oceans.

GLOBEC is supported through the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research and the National Science Foundation.

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