Elemental Oceanography

at the University of Hawai'i Mānoa

Photo credit: Ryan Tabata

Tons of metals enter the oceans every day, but it's normally more subtle than this...

During 2018, Kīlauea's Lower East Rift Zone Eruption began pouring fresh lava into the Pacific Ocean. Within seconds, cold seawater hardened the surface of the lava to rock, bottling up enormous pressures until it exploded, launching elements like iron, manganese, and cobalt into the surrounding ocean. 

Metals are a critical resource for life. When abundant, these micronutrients bolster the metabolism of phytoplankton and other ocean microbes.

When absent, they limit growth and shrink ecosystems.

In the Hawco Lab, we examine the (usually) invisible processes that deliver essential elements to the ecosystems that need them most, and how life in the oceans have evolved to cope with widespread scarcity of metal micronutrients.


Contact Nick at hawco@hawaii.edu