Impact of Climate Warming and Ocean Carbonation on Eelgrass

Since 2011, Aquarium staff and oceanographers at Old Dominion University (ODU) have been working together on a project designed to predict how climate warming and ocean carbonation will affect the eelgrass that grows submerged in the shallow coastal waters of Virginia. Both organizations participated in developing the proposal for a National Science Foundation grant, the first-ever major research collaboration between the Aquarium and ODU. The four-year project is examining the potential effects of rising CO2 on one of the Chesapeake Bay region's most important underwater grasses.

The Aquarium's role includes constructing and maintaining a small experimental aquaculture facility along the Owls Creek Path and providing outreach services to educate the public about the scientific studies. The experimental facility includes 20 flowing saltwater aquariums and a portable laboratory housing the data logging systems and provides space for on-site processing, sample analyses and experimental measurements. ODU scientists are growing test beds of eelgrass in saltwater from Owls Creek at varied temperatures and carbonation levels that simulate potential future climate conditions. ODU faculty and students are conducting the experiments and mathematical modeling involved in the project.