79. Between control and complexity: The potential for experimental ocean science in the Biosphere2 mesocosm

Julia Cole (1)

1 University of Arizona Geosciences and Biosphere 2, Tucson AZ, 85721

How do we make the leap from controlled experimental studies to understanding the real ocean’s response to changing conditions? Marine mesocosms may hold an answer. These are experimental environments that combine the control of laboratory experiments with some of the complexity of natural ecosystems. Mesocosms allow researchers to address critical questions in marine ecology that can bridge the gap between small-scale controlled experiments and field observations, and provide low-cost access to a marine environment with an intermediate degree of complexity and diversity.

The University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 ocean is the largest marine mesocosm dedicated to research purposes. The Biosphere2 ocean, because of its size and complexity, overcomes some challenges of smaller systems, such as scale and biodiversity. Originally conceived as a coral reef, the B2 ocean contributed significantly to early work on ecosystem responses to ocean acidification. As this mesocosm undergoes significant infrastructural and systemic improvements in the near future, the B2 Ocean research group is soliciting users and collaborators to help re-envision and design this facility as a unique and important tool for marine investigations to take full advantage of its resources.

Mesocosm studies can facilitate research ranging from basic biology to multi-factorial ecosystem studies that involve observation, perturbation, validation, calibration, long-term studies and testing of new technologies. Other applications can involve quantitative scaling (e.g. from eDNA to ecosystems), contaminant fate and transport, larval growth and survival, and instrument testing and training. Because the Biosphere2 receives nearly 100,000 visitors yearly, B2 research also contributes to a substantial public and K-12 education program.