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Biologists lead international team to track Arctic response to climate change
Date:2/20/2013

SOLOMONS, MD (February 21, 2013)--Biologists Jackie Grebmeier and Lee Cooper from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory have been visiting the chilly area north of Alaska near the Bering Strait for more than 20 years, but it's only in the last few years that they have seen things really start to change. And fast. Last summer was the highest ice retreat in the Arctic record, and eight of the last ten years have seen the lowest ice on record.

"We're seeing the highest sea ice retreat in the whole Arctic," said Jackie Grebmeier, research professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and chair of the International Pacific Arctic Group. "It's the most productive part of the Arctic, and it's in the U.S.' backyard."

At the end of February, they travel to Seattle gather an international team of scientists to establish a Distributed Biological Observatory in the North American Arctic. Funded by a five-year award from the National Science Foundation, researchers from Japan, Korea, China, Canada, Russia, and the United States will systematically track the biological response to sea ice retreat and the resulting environmental changes in the Bering and Chukchi Seas to the west and north of Alaska.

"It has been projected that there won't be ice in the summer in the Arctic Ocean by 2050," said research professor Lee Cooper. "But the ice is disappearing faster than all of the models."

Through observing stations in five "hot" spots, scientists will monitor everything from the temperature and salinity of the water and the amount of zooplankton (fish food) swimming around in the waters to clams clinging to the shores and how many birds, walruses, and polar bears continue to call the area home. The goal is to observe and document how the Arctic creatures are responding to climate change and track those ecosystem changes und
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Contact: Amy Pelsinsky
apelsinsky@umces.edu
410-330-1389
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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