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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Ocean Researchers Collaborate to Study Chilean, Antarctic Waters

By Tom Robinson

A collaboration with Chilean scientists who have roots at Old Dominion will keep the University's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO) busy for the next decade.

Oceanography professors Eileen Hofmann and John Klinck, and research scientist Michael Dinniman, are part of a 10-year multinational study to explore the impact of climate change on the marine ecosystems in the Chilean Southern Patagonia region, across Drake Passage and to the Antarctic Peninsula.

The CCPO connection was made through Chilean researchers Andrea Pinones and Diego Narvaez, who received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in oceanography from Old Dominion. Both recently returned to Chile after completing postdoctoral positions in the United States.

The collaborative project is supported by Chile's scientific funding agency - the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research Council - through a special initiative to fund research centers in priority areas.

Recognizing the importance of the Antarctic, the project focuses on "Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems." It joins scientists from universities and research institutions from Chile, the United States, Germany, France, South Korea, Norway and Japan.

"That's what I consider one of the most interesting things about it, the number of international collaborations," said Hofmann, who added that Chile has committed $7.5 million for the first five years of the project, with possible continuation for an additional five years.

The CCPO offers modeling expertise that will contribute to the wide-ranging study of such topics as the connectivity between Chile's Southern Patagonia region and the Antarctic Peninsula; climate change effects on the marine ecosystem and food web; and the potential impact of climate change and increasing tourism upon fisheries and human communities in southern Chile.

"There will be a lot of experimental work, laboratory work and field studies related to this project," said Hofmann, who has studied the Antarctic for 30 years. "We will contribute the development of models that pull all the pieces of this system together."

Klinck said the area around the Antarctic Peninsula is the fastest-changing region on Earth due to global warming. "The temperature changes are noticeably large," Klinck said. "That ends up melting glaciers, which influences a number of things downstream from that."

The agreement also calls for the CCPO researchers to travel to Chile to teach Chilean students and scientists about the particular ecosystem and ocean-circulation models they use.

Hoffmann said the field, experimental and modeling studies the Center will conduct will provide the basis for improved understanding and prediction of changes for an important and special region of the planet.

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