By: Matt Rutherford On: August 7, 2015 In: Education Comments: 0

Student Responses to An Arctic Midnight Sun

Russell S: “Does the acidity of ocean water change when you go to other parts of the world like Greenland?”

ORP: There are many factors that alter pH and carbon content of the water. Part of what we are exploring on this expedition is how these variables change while traversing through different climates (temperate to polar). We know in general that the open ocean carbon levels on the surface of the ocean are the same as the atmosphere worldwide but as you approach different coastal ecosystems such as an inland bay like Chesapeake Bay, coral reef rimmed island and glacial fjords that there likely will be major differences.

Colby S: “How long will it take before Maryland is affected by the melting of the polar ice caps?”

ORP: The melting polar ice already has an influence on the sea level within the Chesapeake Bay. There are already islands previously inhabited that have washed away. Tangier and Smith Island are two remaining habited islands in the bay that are predicted to disappear as sea level rises over the next 100 years.

Blaine A and Kevin K: “How does the pH of the water interfere with an animal’s ability to create a shell and influence the growth of coral reefs?”

ORP: Shells are often made of calcium carbonate, shellfish cannot create their shells (skeletons) when the water is too acidic. For calcium carbonate materials like shells and reefs to form and thrive they need a more neutral marine environment.

Jackson H: “Do you think that the melting of the ice caps along with ocean acidification and carbonization could be a reason why you are not seeing as much marine life as you would like?”

ORP: The lack of the marine life observed on this expedition is likely related to the overall shifting of their habitat due to a global temperature increase. Animals have also become wearier of humans due to hunting and probably hear our vessel and flee.

Bryan W: “Will aquatic wild life be able to adapt to the increasing acidity levels in the oceans, if not what percentage of the aquatic life will become extinct?”

ORP: Shellfish and corals will struggle to survive if the ocean acidity continues to change at the same rate.

Phillip M: “What do you think are the three daily activities we could eliminate in order to lower the carbon level worldwide?”

ORP: Learn to power our lives without the use of fossil fuels and use renewable energies instead. Get around using a lower carbon footprint such as bike, car pool, public transportation. Be the change and pave the way for others. If lights or electronics are left on turn them off and other will follow your good example.

John W: “Will polar bears move south since the ice caps in the north are melting and how does the carbon affect them and their prey?”

ORP: The polar bear will likely struggle to adapt quick enough to acclimate to a warmer environment. They spend most of their time on the sea ice and hunting seals there. They have been forced to move closer to shore to figure out how to thrive in an unfamiliar manner. Yet, over the last million years due to their decline they have interbred with brown bears.

ORP: “What impacts could the carbon and acidity have on the surrounding marine life?”

Anagh A: “Carbon has impacts on marine life because when the ocean absorbs carbon, the seawater’s pH decreases which means the acidity in the seawater increases. This increase in acidity also has impacts on marine life. One impact of increased acidity is that it impedes with the ability of certain marine animals to make their skeletons and shells. Another impact of increased acidity is that it can cause reproductive disorders in some fish. One more impact is that is slows the growth of coral reefs which are very important for the survival of marine life.”