Matrai to co-host Arctic-COLORS conference

7-26-2016

Dr. Paty Matrai will be co-hosting a 2-day workshop for the Arctic-COLORS (Arctic-COastal Land Ocean inteRactions) Scoping Study on July 28-29. The NASA-funded scoping study has brought together an organizing committee, including Matrai, to develop a science plan for a large field campaign designed to improve understanding and prediction of land-ocean interactions in the Arctic coastal zone—from the Mackenzie River Delta to the Yukon Delta—as well as to assess that region’s response to current and future pressures. The Arctic is one of the fastest changing places on the planet. By assessing the impacts of natural and anthropogenic changes on the coastal ocean ecology and biogeochemistry, this study will inform strategies for mitigation and adaptation.

The Arctic-COLORS field campaign represents the first attempt to study the nearshore coastal Arctic—from river deltas and estuaries out to the coastal sea—as an integrated land-ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system. The interdisciplinary scope of the project has required the collective feedback and efforts of the broader scientific community. Through a series of community engagements with colleagues across scientific disciplines, the organizing committee has developed a preliminary plan which addresses five major questions for the study:

How and where are materials from the land, atmosphere, and ocean transformed within the land-ocean continuum of the Arctic coastal zone?

How does thawing of Arctic permafrost—either directly through coastal erosion or indirectly through changing freshwater loads from upstream thaw—translate to changes in coastal ecology and biogeochemistry?

How do changes in snow/ice conditions and coastal circulation influence Arctic coastal ecology and biogeochemistry?

How do changes in fluxes of materials, heat, and buoyancy from the land, atmosphere, and ocean influence Arctic coastal ecology and biogeochemistry?

How do changing environmental (short-term) and climate (long-term) conditions alter the Arctic coastal zone’s availability and use of ecosystem services?

The proposed plan, spanning from 2018-2026, would provide a needed link between the open ocean research and the Arctic river processes fieldwork currently taking place. "The land-coastal ocean region captures the interaction of two systems, on which local communities depend for resources and services” explains Matrai. “It is however logistically difficult to reach and sample: too shallow for traditional oceanographic vessels and too icy for smaller coastal boats. In spring and fall it is accessible only by helicopter and in winter only by snowmobile."

A NASA-appointed panel has reviewed and provided recommended revisions for the plan to be resubmitted for further consideration and funding. The July workshop at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is designed to obtain further input from the scientific community on these comments and revisions, so that the plan can be resubmitted to NASA Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry (OBB) program by the end of the 2016 calendar year.

Photo caption: The pink shaded region along the coast denotes the core study region that will be considered in the scoping study.