Arctic AMIZA (NSF)

Arctic Marginal Ice Zone Alkalinity (AMIZA)

This exciting project funded by NSF Arctic Sciences award 2049991 “Carbonate system dynamics and biogeochemistry in a changing Arctic”.

Arctic Ocean summer sea ice is predicted to retreat such that in just a few decades the new norm will be ice-free summers. We collected water samples on the RV Sikuliaq between May 20 to June 14, 2021, from the Bering sea to the marginal ice zone in the Chukchi Sea. The area where open water becomes progressively more ice-covered (and ice melt is a significant signal), presents a unique opportunity to better understand the complexities in arctic biogeochemistry and its changing role in carbon sequestration as the summer ice edge recedes. By examining the internal consistency of the carbonate system/models, the work will lead to an improved understanding of the controls on ocean acidification and ocean-atmosphere CO2 exchange. We examine important carbonate system measurements such as dissolved organic and inorganic carbon, that when coupled with parallel mercury measurements  taken concurrently on the Sikuliaq, will improve our understanding of the relationships between dissolved elemental Hg and DIC in the Arctic, both in the open water and under the ice. We are generating hands-on videos and materials for citizen science groups with a focus on polar regions. Finally, look out for a cruise podcast series that will comprise five to ten minute podcasts for the public on the changing arctic, what it’s like to be a young oceanographer, and themes related to the study.

This clip illustrates the  cruise track and the position of the marginal ice zone over the entire study period – skq202108s_icestations.

Here is a great animation of the minimum and maximum sea ice extent in the Arctic since 1999.

Our Stories:
On May 4th we arrived in Dutch Harbor, Alaska at the tip of the Aleutian islands for a 2-week pre-cruise COVID isolation. Isolation requirements were just beginning to change though not fast enough to reduce ours. That said we enjoyed the raw nature of the Aleutian Islands, saw numerous bald eagles and did several of the nearby hikes while we waited.

Dutch Harbor

That said we enjoyed the raw nature of the Aleutian Islands, saw numerous bald eagles and did several of the nearby hikes while we waited.

UCONN science team – our group (Laure, Emma & Penny) and the Mason mercury group, (Hannah, Yipeng and Rob)
Penny, Hannah, Lauren & Emma on Bunker Hill
Emma & Lauren in obligate bunker shot







On May 19th at 8am we boarded the RV Sikuliaq and began setting up our equipment right away. By 5 pm (dinner time) all was in place and secured.

Set up of continuous alkalinity measurements using the Hydros TA aka “Atticus” and the spectrophotometric pH in the main lab.






Emma Shipley and high volume air sampler (left) installed below the bridge. Large volume surface water extractions (right). Emma is investigating the air-sea flux and distributions on brominated organic molecules (bromoanisols and bromophenols) that are made naturally in seawater by algal and bacterial assemmblages in the Beafort and Chukchi Seas along with other organocompounds.




Lauren Barrett and Doug Hammond sampling sediment cores for benthic fluxes in the climate controlled chamber.





Our target was to sample intensely across the marginal ice zone to evaluate under ice water, brine and surrounding ice melt. The experience was exhilarating and polar bears kept everyone alert.

Sikuliaq lodges itself into the annual ice which is about 1 m thick. These will be our sampling grounds. Annual ice form in the fall and grows over the winter period but as its name suggests is only a year old. Multi-year ice is thicker (up to 3m) and fresher, having had time to extrude more salt.
At one ice station, bear tracks were spotted off the starboard side but no bears were in site. While the ice team was out on the ice there were at least 6 people on the bridge looking out at the horizon to identify any visitors.
At ice station 5 the polar bears there were three bears spotted and became very curious though eventually too close for comfort. We wait…













Station 5 bears


When the bears were about 2 miles away we began sampling.

Post Cruise:

We presented the first results from the cruise at the 2022 Ocean Sciences Meeting:

We have also Submitted our first manuscript: “A changing Arctic: Non-conservative nature of boron in marginal ice zones” to Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

Results from Broader Impacts:

Students from the University for the Creative Arts in the UK working with Prof.  Iro Tsavala based their senior illustration projects on AMIZA following discussions with PI Vlahos.

These are some of the products:

“Letter to a Polar Bear” by Jamie Mabb

Animations by Erin Berry