ST. PETERSBURG, FL – CMS Assistant Professor Tim Conway was recently awarded a grant by NSF Chemical Oceanography ($374,080) for a three year process study which will investigate how iron dissolves from atmospheric dust into the ocean. Although it is well known that desert dust supplies large amounts of this trace nutrient to the ocean, and thus fuels plankton growth, the process by which dust particles dissolve to release metals is still not well understood.
This study, in collaboration with Dr. Rene Boiteau at Oregon State will use new laboratory and field experiments to better understand how natural organic matter present in seawater enhances the release of metals from dust deposited in the ocean. By combining cutting edge techniques designed to characterise organic molecules at OSU with iron isotope measurements using ICPMS instruments at the new Tampa Bay Plasma Facility at CMS, the scientists hope to provide new insights into these processes. The work will involve collection of natural atmospheric dust at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science’s Tudor Hill Observatory on Bermuda and multiple cruises in the Sargasso Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
As well as funding two early career scientists, the work will providing funding for three graduate students. The outcomes of this process study will provide a framework for models and interpretation of large scale field studies such as GEOTRACES, as well as enhancing the community’s ability to interpret aerosol and oceanic iron cycle data.