The Changing Oceans Cruise is a 35 day scientific expedition, departing from Glasgow on the 17th May 2012. Led by Professor Murray Roberts, the mission is to examine the potential impact of changes in the temperature and chemistry of the oceans on cold-water coral reefs and the associated reef-creatures. Using a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), we will survey and sample the deep water coral communities. We will also use a vast array of scientific equipment to study the biology, chemistry and physics of cold-water coral sites, as well as conducting onboard experiments.

In addition to the ship's crew and officers, there will be an international crew of 21 scientists and 11 technicians aboard the RRS James Cook. These scientists come from institutions across the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Spain, Germany and the USA (Heriot-Watt, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, CEFAS, University of Hull, University of Aberdeen, National Oceanography Centre (Southampton), University of Glasgow, University of Southern Denmark, Fish & Wildlife Service (USA), Instituto Español de Oceanografía (Spain), and Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR, Germany)). More about the scientists and technicians can be found here.

We will be visiting the shallow Mingulay Reef Complex in the Outer Hebrides before steaming out to the deep waters of the Rockall Trough. Here we will work at a deeper coral carbonate mound province, and a series of Lophelia reefs on Rockall Bank. This map shows the sites we will be visiting and the route will take. As well as conducting surveys for Marine Science Scotland, we will be sampling from the site of the Pisces III dive in 1973 - further details at Lophelia.org.
Over the past 100 years, human activities such as the burning of coal and gas have increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing the oceans to warm and become more acidic.  For cold-water corals, these changes mean that they may start to grow slower, need more food to survive, and may not even be able to grow in some areas. There may also be changes in how much food is available, as their food may also grow slower in warmer, more acidic waters. We need to learn more about how these corals will react to the changes, by studying how they survive now, and by doing laboratory experiments to see how they respond to different conditions. There are also a myriad of other animals and microorganisms which live on and around these coral reefs – we will be examining how these creatures will be affected by changes in their environment, and how they have changed over the past few decades. We will also be characterising the carbonate chemistry and environmental conditions surrounding the reef area, and mapping the seabed to see what it is like and how much it changes over space. We will also collect cores of the seabed that take us back thousands of years in time. Much more about the science taking place on 'Changing Oceans' can be found here.

The cruise is part of the Benthic Consortium of the UK Ocean Acidification research Programme (UKOA), a project funded and supported by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Heriot-Watt University.

What else?
Through coordination with Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, children from Sgoil Lionacleit, Benbecula, will be joining the cruise for a day, to learn about ocean exploration and the potential effect that changes to the oceans could have on the out-of-sight animals.

Background Images by MichealJay