|UNC scientist receives NSF grant for ocean acidification project|
|Tuesday, August 10, 2010|
Justin Ries, marine geologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has received a $655,689 National Science Foundation grant to study the impact of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide on marine organisms’ ability to build their shells and skeletons.
Ries, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the marine sciences department in the College of Arts and Sciences. He investigates how clams, oysters, urchins, lobsters, corals and other shelled marine creatures respond to changes in ocean chemistry, both in the future and the geologic past.
His new project on the biological effects of ocean acidification – the term for falling pH levels in the Earth’s oceans as they absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – may have important implications for marine ecosystems, food webs and the multi-billion dollar global market for shellfish and crustaceans.
The project follows up on a study published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Geology, in which Ries and colleagues found that some sediment-dwelling marine organisms produced shells more rapidly under high carbon dioxide conditions, while others produced shells more slowly. Some of the creatures whose shells grew more quickly prey on those whose shells weakened, so such changes could have serious ramifications for predator-prey relationships, Ries said.
The results were recently highlighted in a U.S. Senate hearing on the economic and ecological impacts of ocean acidification (http://bit.ly/di44GE).
College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093,