Dennis McGillicuddy from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), along with collaborators Chuanmin Hu and Brian Barnes from the University of South Florida, and Brian LaPointe from Florida Atlantic University, are tracking the Sargassum belt from satellite observations and analyzing these opportunistic samples, with the goal of studying the distribution of different species of Sargassum and measuring their elemental composition to better understand their origin. The nutrient supply feeding these blooms remains enigmatic, and hypothesized sources include upwelling/mixing, atmospheric deposition, and river runoff. These samples can help answer some of these critical questions.
Since 2011, when researchers first observed abnormally large accumulations of Sargassum in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the blooms have gotten worse—with substantial economic costs associated with coastal inundation. While the algae support birds and sea life in the open ocean, it can have adverse impacts on environmentally and economically important ecosystems when they reach shore. As it starts to decay, Sargassum emits hydrogen sulfide fumes that impact human health.
About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering—one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in basic and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide—both above and below the waves—pushing the boundaries of knowledge and possibility. For more information, please visit www.whoi.edu