Jonathan Sharp, USF

PhD Student, University of South Florida College of Marine Science

IMG_9492Bio: My path to marine science began in a high school classroom in North Philadelphia. I decided to take a semester-long marine ecology course, despite my distinct lack of prior oceanographic knowledge. But the field immediately fascinated me, and that spark of interest led to my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology at the University of Miami.

At Miami, I had the good fortune to land a research assistant position in the lab of Frank Millero, a prominent marine chemist. Though my coursework at the time was biology-focused, I became captivated by ocean chemistry. I studied ionic interactions in seawater and human-induced changes to the chemistry of our oceans. I became especially interested in the marine carbonate system—the chemistry of dissolved carbon dioxide in seawater.

This research experience led me to the University of South Florida, where I am pursuing a PhD in chemical oceanography. Under the direction of Robert Byrne, I am seeking to develop novel methods to measure parameters of the marine carbonate system. I am also using both established and novel methods to observe and describe fluctuations in seawater chemistry. This research is critical as the continuing human influence on ocean chemistry demands that subtle changes in carbonate system parameters be detected.

The GOMECC-3 Cruise will be my second extended period at sea after my experience last summer on NOAA’s West Coast Ocean Acidification Cruise. I am very much looking forward to studying the Gulf of Mexico. It is a dynamic environment whose chemistry is influenced by various physical and biological processes like the Loop Current, river input, nutrient runoff, primary production, and countless others.

What I’m doing on this cruise: On this cruise, I’ll be measuring pH and carbonate ion concentrations in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Our group uses spectrophotometric methods to perform these measurements. Essentially, we pass light through solutions and detect the amount of light that is absorbed by each. The amount of absorbed light corresponds to the concentration in that solution of the chemical species we are concerned with (in this case, either hydrogen ions or carbonate ions).

We’ll also be testing a novel instrument called the MICA in a Box (MICA stands for Multi-parameter Inorganic Carbon Analyzer). This is a device designed to continuously sample surface waters for pH, dissolved inorganic carbon, and total alkalinity. The MICA in a box is a smaller and less costly version of previous incarnations of the Multi-parameter Inorganic Carbon Analyzer.

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