DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. (WKRG) — Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) is celebrating 50 years of education and research. One of the reasons they are celebrating is because of their important and impactful research projects. 

The DISL is a part of an international research project where scientists are studying the arctic atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice more closely than they have in over two decades. 

The lab is actually getting samples of arctic ice shipped to them to study the amount of a specific element called silica. There are two types of this element they are looking at — one type is called lithogenic silica that originates in rocks. The rocks get weathered down and this element flows into the oceans. Little tiny plants in the ocean absorb this lithogenic silica to produce a protective glass-like structure to protect themselves. This is similar to how calcium strengthens our bones. Once they use this element, it is then called biogenetic silica. 

“So for researchers, we are interested in understanding the difference between the amount of biogenetic versus lithogenic silica in different pools all over the world,” says Cassie Bates, researcher at DISL. 

Several things can impact the amount of these elements that are found in the ice and water, such as PH levels in the water and temperature. These two things can be impacted by changes in the climate and oceans. 

These plants are photosynthetic which means they absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. Bates adds, “Researchers estimate that they give off between 50 and 80 percent of the world’s oxygen. They also act as the foundation to the marine food web and feed thousands and thousands of fish which we depend on for food consumption as well.” 

So if there is not enough of this element for the tiny plants to use to protect themselves, they may not survive and that could impact our food and climate. 

Be sure to come out and enjoy the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s week of celebration to learn about some more of these important research projects and participate in different educational opportunities, excursions, aquarium tours and more April 5-10. For more information, click here