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Unique coral reef research mission begins

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Oct. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists began a 10-day underwater research mission Tuesday designed to study the effect of ocean acidification on coral reefs.

"Most of the work on the effect of ocean acidification on corals and other calcifying organisms has been done in the laboratory," said University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Professor Chris Martens. "This will be the first time we will be able to see how these impacts change daily, and even by the minute, as we continuously monitor changes in water chemistry from the surface to the seafloor …"

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The scientists will live and work aboard the Aquarius Reef Base, the world's only underwater laboratory, anchored 60 feet deep within a coral reef in the Florida Keys.

The lab enables divers to remain underwater and have extended time for diving and research by going through 17 hours of decompression at the end of a mission instead of returning to the surface each day.

Professor Niels Lindquist, a member of the team, said the scientists will use advanced technologies such as underwater mass spectrometers and pH sensors to obtain state-of-the-art water chemistry measurements.

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Aquarius is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and operated by the university.

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