Against the Odds: Adaptation and Biodiversity at Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents

Against all odds, life has found a way to exist in the harshest of places. At deep-sea hydrothermal vents the sun’s rays are absent and temperatures are so hot the water would boil if it weren’t for the crushingly high pressures. If that wasn’t enough, there is also the environment’s toxicity—enriched with radioactive elements, loaded with heavy metals, and infused with hydrogen sulfide at levels 10 to 100 times higher than concentrations toxic to most metazoans (Childress, 1992).

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GEOS-240: Carbon Dioxide in the Oceans

Carbon dioxide has become the major concern in the world of science in the past 50 years. We have become more concerned with how our carelessness of not being environmentally friendly will impact our children in years to come. This may seem initially like an atmospheric problem, but many of the changes yet to come start in the ocean especially with our emissions on constant rise, just in 2010 our emissions rose 5.9%. 

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GEOS-240: The Definition and Characteristics of a Tsunami

A tsunami is a series of three to four seismic waves that form as gravity equalizes a significant amount of oceanic water that was displaced by a natural disturbance, such as a seaquake or marine or continental landslide. Though a tsunami’s peak wave may occur at any point in the series (Bryant, 2001), all waves within a tsunami wave series have common characteristics.

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GEOS-240: Lost Cities: Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents

Beyond the photosynthetic zone, the deep ocean used to be thought of as relatively devoid of life. However, in 1977 an expedition from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, using the research submersible Alvin, discovered densely populated benthic communities living around hydrothermal vents. What was discovered was like something from science fiction: giant clams and mussels, tubeworms up to 3 m in length, thick mats of filamentous bacteria, yeti crabs and chimney vents spewing black smoke (Vrijenjoek, 2010).

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GEOS-240: El Niño’s React to Global Warming (I)

Before I introduce El Niño and its impact, let’s first have a glimpse of Walker Circulation. (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Walker Circulation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-r82_HRfNw)

 

When an El Niño (the boy in Spanish) event happens, the normal location of Indonesian Low continuously moves eastward, which eventually reverses the high-low pressure relation. The eastward moving Indonesian Low weakens the strength of the southeastern trade wind and the upwelling at southeastern Pacific.

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GEOS-240: Turbidity Currents

Turbidity currents are a mechanism involved with transporting vast quantities of shallow-water sediments to the abyssal depths.  A turbidity current is a type of density current, where gravity acts upon the differences in density between fluids (Kneller, 2000).  Kneller and Buckee’s journal article does good job defining what a turbidity current is.  In terms of turbidity currents, the density difference is attributed to the suspension of sediments due to fluid turbulence. 

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GEOS-240: Climate Change and Fish Migration

A large Study was undertaken to tag and follow the bluefin tuna on its yearly migration around the planet to feed and spawn. Bluefin have some of the longest migration patterns in the world and have been known to routinely cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Humans need fish to survive, around the world around 850 million people rely on fish for  their primary source of protein(Brander, 2007).  

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GEOS-240: Acidification Effects on the Ocean’s Ecosystem

Since 1751 to 2004 the ocean’s pH has been estimated to decrease from approximately 8.25 to 8.14.  With the combustion of fossil fuels it leads to a great increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, where the oceans have absorbed some of the CO2. The effects that acidification of the ocean has on the ecosystem are evident in the slower growth of coral, oyster larvae suffering, and plankton with calcareous skeletons losing mass.

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GEOS-240: Plastic Debris in the Ocean

Pollution in the ocean, specifically plastic debris, has been an issue for numerous decades.  Over the years the amount of trash in the ocean has significantly increased, due to lack of education on what is occurring in the ocean and also due to the ways in which humans deposit their waste.  While the main focus of many research groups has been on the North Pacific, plastic debris build up has also been found in the Atlantic and Indian ocean. 

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