Ocean Optics Laboratory

The Ocean Optics Laboratory is overseen by Senior Research Scientist Dr. William M. Balch.

The Ocean Optics Lab is interested in factors that affect the distribution of phytoplankton in space and time, with an emphasis on coccolithophores, one of the main sources of calcium carbonate on the globe. Recent work has focused on ocean acidification. Advanced ocean optics technology is used to study phytoplankton by measuring their pigments and light absorbtion properties. Ocean color and temperature data make it possible to calculate rates of photosynthesis, and estimate the amount of chlorophyll and phytoplankton biomass in the water.

Some topics the Ocean Optics Lab is studying include:

  • How do long-term changes in climate affect the biomass and primary production of the Gulf of Maine?
  • What are the effects of ocean acidification on the distribution and abundance of phytoplankton populations?
  • How do changes in phytoplankton community structure, particularly changes in abundance of calcifyng phytoplankton such as coccolithophores, affect the ocean's ability to reflect, absorb, or scatter light, and how might this feed back on oceanic and climatological conditions?