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Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Professor Studies Ocean Acidification on Shelfwide Cruise for Sixth Consecutive Year

August 19, 2015

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Xinping Hu, Assistant Professor of Chemical Oceanography at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, participated in the 31st annual Shelfwide Cruise, a scientific research trip, in the northern Gulf of Mexico from July 27-August 4.

This is Hu’s sixth year in a row on the cruise. When he began taking these voyages, he was working at the University of Georgia. On the research trips, Hu has worked with scientists from Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) and Louisiana State University.

During the cruise, he studied carbonate chemistry for ocean acidification-related topics. Hypoxia, the main agent of study on these endeavors, is an environmental phenomenon where oxygen depletion in an area of water reaches the point (typically less than 2 milligram per liter) that the water can no longer sustain healthy aquatic life. 

 Hypoxia in the Louisiana Shelf is believed to be caused by large nutrient runoff through both the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers, originating from agricultural fertilizer usage on the land. However, there is still more research to be done.

“We know that hypoxic regions can drive away mobile fishery species because they would have a hard time living in a low oxygen area, but what is less known is that acidification of hypoxic water is also present,” said Hu. “It’s important that we continue to do research since both stressors could result in a huge economic loss to the Gulf Coast fishing industry.”

Recently, Hu was a co-author on a Nature Geoscience paper that revealed new research on the subject of acidification in the hypoxic zone off the coast of Louisiana.

“There is still a lot to be learned in terms of coastal ocean acidification and its association with hypoxia,” said Hu. “My participation is to try to understand this interaction in more detail.”

Hu’s participation is funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiatives, a three-year project focused on understanding oxygen and CO2 dynamics in the northern Gulf of Mexico. He is currently collecting seawater samples for essential analyses and will collaborate with LUMCON colleagues to further understand the coastal acidification in this critical area.