Beginning in March 2012 the Smith Lab, in collaboration with Todd Martz and Andrew Dickson, deployed state-of-the-art instrumentation on the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial (EBSM) Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to measure long-term, high resolution variability in pH and temperature in coastal La Jolla. The SOAR Monitoring Program is one of the only continuous, coastal Ocean Acidification monitoring sites on the west coast of the United States.
Unique Ocean Acidification Dataset
The SOAR Monitoring Program has been measuring long-term, high-resolution variability in pH and temperature in coastal La Jolla using state-of-the-art instrumentation on the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial (EBSM) Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography since March 2012. Measurement of dissolved oxygen (DO) began in August 2018 as an additional variable of interest in coastal ecosystems. The pH sensor is calibrated in situ on a bi-weekly basis, making this one of the most rigorously maintained long-term OA data sets.
The first version of “real-time” data transfer from underwater to the cloud was implemented in 2014, with an improved installation in 2018 that also included shore-based power (eliminating our need for third party cloud storage services and disposable batteries). Now, data are recorded to an online server hosted by university collaborators, where they can be accessed from anywhere in the world to observe pH and temperature in real time. This remote access to data has proven to be invaluable for monitoring sensor function and health when we are unable to service the sensor manually due to extreme ocean conditions, or even events such as the “shelter in place” order of 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to this system, we have caught instrumentation failure before data was lost, responded quickly to repair near-catastrophic failure following storms, and effectively analyzed data from the comfort and safety of home during a global pandemic.
Through the generous support of the Bohn Family, the Ellen Brown Scripps Foundation, and Marcia Grand we have been able to maintain this important monitoring program annually for over a decade. Through these efforts we have been able to gather an impressive and invaluable data set that will be used to determine if OA is occurring here in coastal California. The graph above shows our most up to date “quality controlled” data collected by SOAR. Our data thus far indicate that pH is more variable in the coastal waters immediately offshore of La Jolla than in the open ocean. The variability that we see is caused by coastal oceanographic processes, such as upwelling and tidal mixing, as well as biological processes, such as photosynthesis and respiration. In order to detect trends over time, such variability necessitates monitoring over longer time scales than more stable environments, which is the goal for the SOAR monitoring program. The length of this dataset has also given us the unique ability to capture data spanning the duration of global and local ocean anomalies, such as El Nino, the 2014 “warm blob,” and massive algal blooms (indicated by the shaded regions), which allows us to observe how these anomalous events impact local pH.
SOAR Monitoring Program provides a valuable coastal OA dataset that is not being replicated elsewhere. Therefore, the data produced has been in high demand. To date, nearly a dozen publications featuring SOAR data have been submitted to scientific journals for review.
- Kram, S.L., Price, N.N., Donham, E.M., Johnson, M.D., Kelly, E.L.A., Hamilton, S.L., Smith, J.E. (2015). Variable responses of temperate calcified and fleshy macroalgae to elevated pCO2 and warming. ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil 73(3), 693-703. (https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsv168).
- Takeshita Y., Frieder C.A., Martz T.R., Ballard J.R., Feely R.A., B., Nam S., Navarro M.O., Price N.N., Smith J.E. (2015). Including high-frequency variability in coastal ocean acidification projections. Biogeosciences 12(19), 5853-5870. (https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-12-5853-2015).
- McLaughlin, K., Dickson, A., Weisberg, S. B., Coale, K., Elrod, V., Hunter, C., Johnson, K. S., Kram, S. L., Kudela, R., Martz, T., Negrey, K., Passow, U., Shaughnessy, F., Smith, J. E., Tadesse, D., Washburn, L., and Weis, K. R. (2017). An Evaluation of ISFET Sensors for Coastal pH Monitoring Applications. Regional Studies in Marine Science 12, 11-18. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rsma.2017.02.008).
- DeVries, M.S., Webb, S.J., Tu, J., Cory, E., Morgan, V., Sah, R.L., Deheyn, D.D., Taylor, J.R.A. (2016). Stress physiology and weapon integrity of intertidal mantis shrimp under future ocean conditions. Scientific Reports 6, 38637. (https://doi.org/10.1038/srep38637).
- Rankin, A. L. (2017). The effects of reduced pH on decorator crab morphology, physiology and behavior. UC San Diego. ProQuest ID: Rankin_ucsd_0033M_16943. Merritt ID: ark:/13030/m56q6t4g. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3hn315j1
- Wilson, J.M., Conners, E., Clements, S.M., Smith, J.E., and Bowman, J.S. (2021). Decoupling physical and biological drivers of summer oxygen change in the littoral zone of the Southern California Bight. In review.
- Wilson, J.M., Erazo, N., Connors, E., Chamberlain, E.J., Clements, S.M., Carter, M.L., Smith, J.E., and Bowman, J.S. (2022) Substantial microbial community shifts in response to an exceptional armful algal bloom in costal Southern California. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 10(1): 00088. (https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.2021.00088)
- Pezner, A., Courtney, T., Barkley, H., Chou, W. Chu, H., Clements, S., Cyronak, T., DeGrandpre, M., Kekuewa, S., Kline, D., Liang, Y., Martz, T., Mitarai, S., Page, H, Rintoul, M., Smith, J., Soong, K., Takeshita, Y., Tresguerres, M., Wei, Y., Yates, K., and Andersson, A. (2023). Global coral reefs will experience moderate to severe hypoxia before the end of the century. Nature Climate Change 13, 403-409. (https://doi.org/ 1038/s41558-023-01619-2)
- Skelton, Z.R., L.R. McCormick, G.T. Kwan, J. Lonthair, C. Neira, M. Clements, T.R. Martz, P.J. Bresnahan, U. Send, S.N. Giddings, J.C. Sevadjian, S. Jaeger, A. Feit, B.W. Frable, P.J. Zerofski, M. Torres, J.A. Crooks, J. McCullough, M.L. Carter, E. Ternon, L.P. Miller, G.M. Kalbach, D.C. Wheeler, P.E. Parnell, K.M. Swiney, G. Seibert, J.J. Minich, J.R. Hyde, P.A. Hastings, J.E. Smith, L.M. Komoroske, M. Tresguerres, L.A. Levin, and N.C. Wegner (2023). Organismal responses to deteriorating water quality during the historic 2020 red tide off Southern California. In review.
The Smith Lab has capitalized on several public education opportunities afforded by the SOAR program. We strongly believe that for the results of our research to have a lasting impact, they should be understood and accessible to the public, as well as fellow researchers. Therefore the Smith Lab and the SOAR Monitoring Program have been featured at several events, highlighting the importance of OA monitoring and showcasing the work being done at Scripps including the Birch Aquarium, Sea Camp, the Ocean Discovery Institute, local schools, lab tours, etc. The SOAR program has a dedicated Facebook page where we communicate our results to friends and followers. Facebook Page: Scripps Ocean Acidification Real-time (SOAR) Monitoring Program. Raising awareness about OA and telling the story behind the science.
In addition to acquiring the necessary scientific data to study and document OA, the Smith Lab is also actively engaged in training the next generation of young scientists. The EBSM Pier offers an unprecedented platform and countless opportunities to train undergraduate and graduate students in marine science and scientific SCUBA diving while developing an unparalleled data set on OA. Over 50 students have been trained to help with the OA monitoring project, providing career training and hands-on experience.
The Smith Lab is committed to maintaining this unprecedented data set at SIO. As with all long-term monitoring data sets they become more and more valuable the longer they persist. In addition to fundraising to maintain the basic program, our future goals include:
- Publish additional peer-reviewed scientific articles
- Foster and create new collaborations both within and outside of Scripps
- Use the data to design and perform rigorous and relevant biological experiments
- Develop OA early warning system & mitigation strategies for local aquaculture facilities
- Develop a parallel/sister program in the La Jolla kelp forest and Hawaii
For more information, please contact the SOAR Program Manager, Samantha Clements at <email@example.com>