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SCOPE Spotlight

Back deck of the UH research vessel Ka'imikai-O-Kanaloa taken during the cruise. (photo credit: Ryan Tabata)

Satellite image showing a "plant" (a.k.a. phytoplankton) bloom off the Hawai'i island coast. (photo credit: Lance A. Fujieki)

The UH SCOPE team coordinated a rapid response in mid-July to study the impact of recent eruptions from the volcano Kilauea, on ocean processes east of island of Hawai'i. The team sought to better understand the impact of the eruption on ocean microbes and the ecosystem processes they mediate. Clues from satellite data suggested that volcanic inputs may have stimulated the growth of the ocean's tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton. In particular, lava and ash are a rich source of iron and phosphorus, two nutrients that are typically in low abundance around the Hawaiian islands. Dr. Dave Karl, co-director of SCOPE, notes "We found that the chemistry of the lava interacts with the ocean to provide a nourishment, a fertilizer if you will, and that promoted the growth of plants."