Environmental Modeling and Prediction
Quantitative analysis of marine and atmospheric systems is an important part of SoMAS research. Our faculty are involved in a diversity of research efforts that employ modeling and other quantitative tools to better understand and predict oceanographic, atmospheric and ecological processes. By combining mathematical models and empirical data, SoMAS faculty gain insight into the causes and consequences of natural phenomena and human disturbances. Here are a few examples of current quantitative research at SoMAS:
- Understanding the causes and consequences large-scale oceanographic phenomena
- Role of oceanic processes on global carbon cycles
- Evaluating mechanisms of climate change
- Exploring the impact of physical circulation and oceanographic features on biological resources
- Assessing anthropogenic impacts on food web dynamics
- Predicting regional weather from meso-scale models
Patterns and Impacts of Climate Change
Human activities have altered the Earth’s atmospheric composition and its land surface to a sufficient degree that world climates are likely changing as well. It is certainly no longer controversial that human activities have increased atmospheric greenhouse gases, pollutants, and aerosols; nor is it deniable the we have dramatically changed Earth’s vegetation and other landscape characteristics. Under these conditions, questions about how the world climate system and its natural variability interact with human forcings are major concerns to the society. Several scientists at SoMAS are carrying out research to quantify the human forcing of climate, to detect the signals and pattern of climate change, and to understand how the climate system works through numerical simulations. Other researchers are more focused on the impacts of climate change on Earth’s physical and biological regimes. Around the globe, shifting temperature, precipitation, and storm patterns are driving significant changes in continental runoff, coastal hydrology, and species abundance and distributions. Understanding the links between between natural variability, climate change, and human forcings are key to developing rational strategies for such environmental changes.
The presence of chemicals and pathogens in the environment is of great concern to both ecosystem and human health, yet the source, fates, and effects of these contaminants are often not well known. In collaboration with each other and with colleagues in the Stony Brook Health Sciences Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Cornell’s Veterinary School, SoMAS faculty are actively investigating these and other environmental health issues:
- Pathology and parisitology of marine fish and shellfish
- Sources and assessment of sediment toxicity
- Fates and effects of endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environments
- Impact of groundwater discharges on coastal water quality
- Bioavailability, food chain transfer and effects of contaminants in marine invertebrates and fish
Humans have widespread effects on marine environments, ranging from the indirect effects of land-use on coastal water quality, to the direct effects of exploitation. SoMAS faculty are interested in gaining a better understanding these effects and in trying to develop improved management policies. Research interests include identifying the causes and effects of brown tides, understanding shellfish dynamics, exploring causes of disease outbreaks, assessing how aquatic organisms interact with toxic chemicals in their environment, establishing marine wilderness areas, and identifying the evolutionary and ecological effects of fisheries. These efforts involve close collaboration with state and federal management agencies, such as the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
Anthropogenic alteration of biogeochemical processes such as carbon and nitrogen cycling is thought to be causing a variety of changes to Earth’s biosphere. Faculty at SoMAS are working both on projects designed to produce a mechanistic understanding of how energy and nutrients are transformed from one form to another as they pass through marine ecosystems, and on using that new information to discover approaches to mitigate the pressing environmental problems that result from human activities. These projects include studies of the sources, transformations, fates, and fluxes of various organic and inorganic compounds in both planktonic and benthic systems, as well as studies of the relationships between the genetic and physiological diversity of marine microorganisms and the physical and biological processes that structure their habitats, including food web interactions. These efforts are focused at scales ranging from the water quality of a local embayments over seasons and years, to changes in global climate over years and decades.