A USC researcher has given insight into how the ocean impacts climate change.

Lisa Collins, environmental studies lecturer with the USC Dornsife College, spent four years collecting samples from floating sediment traps in the San Pedro Basin off the Los Angeles coast, giving scientists a peek at how much carbon is locked up in the ocean and where it comes from.

Collins’ research has suggested that the majority of particulate organic carbon (POC) falling to the basin floor is marine-derived, not the result of runoff from rainfall. This means that the ocean off the coast of Southern California is acting as a carbon ‘sink’ - taking carbon out of the atmosphere via phytoplankton and locking it up in sediment.

Though estimates regarding the effect of carbon in the ocean already exist, her hard data could help climatologists create more accurate predictions of how carbon will impact global warming.

"It’s all tied to climate change,” said Collins, who started the research as a graduate student working for USC Earth Sciences Professor Will Berelson. "This lets us see patterns.

"Our data can help climate modelers better predict the interactions between the oceans and atmosphere with respect to carbon which can help them better predict how much carbon dioxide will end up sequestered over the long term as sediments in the ocean,” she added.