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Collaborative Research: Evaluating the Competing Impacts of Global Emissions Reductions and Climate Change on the Distribution and Retention of selected POPs in the Arctic Ocean


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Ocean & fiord systems
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The goal of this research is to better understand how changes in global emissions and climate are affecting the distribution, lifetime, and bioavailability of selected persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic Ocean. POPs travel globally in air and water, are often highly bioaccumulative, and have the ability to cycle among environmental media enabling long-range transport to remote regions such as the Arctic. The investigators will use a modeling approach to provide insight into the relative importance of changing primary anthropogenic emissions and oceanic biogeochemical processes in controlling the fate and lifetime of POPs in the Arctic Ocean. The research will focus on two classes of compounds (polyfluorinated compounds - PFCs - and polychlorinated biphenyls - PCBs) with contrasting physical and chemical properties affecting behavior and reactivity in the atmosphere and ocean. The investigators will also collect new data on depth profiles of PCBs and two PFCs - perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanate (PFOA) - in the Arctic Ocean. Three main objectives will be addressed in the proposed research: 1) Quantify the global and regional atmospheric budget of PCBs and PFCs, including relevant spatially-varying uncertainties 2) Quantify the budget of PCBs and PFCs in the Arctic Ocean, including inputs from atmospheric deposition, riverine inflows, and ocean cycling 3) Quantify the relative importance of atmospheric, oceanic, and riverine inputs of PFOA, PFOS and PCBs to the Arctic, including the influence of climate and emissions. 
 Ultimately this project will improve knowledge of how these compounds reach the Arctic and inform environmental management. The broader impacts component of the project will have three main goals: (1) Provide policy-relevant information to the Stockholm Convention and other international agreements on POPs to support monitoring and evaluation efforts for its controls on PCBs and PFOS and related compounds; (2) Inform sustainability education, by developing a case study on emerging POPs in the Arctic for courses relevant to environmental sustainability; and (3) train the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists (one graduate student will be trained at each of the three collaborating institutions).