Waves with mist trailing off of their crests, sea gulls crying, fishing boats on the horizon, the rewards of enjoying life by the sea are vast. But along with the rewards comes danger. There is a threat to sea life that can change all of our lives, ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification will either cause adaptation or extinction for most marine life.
Stephen Palumbi, a professor in marine sciences from the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, says that we have gone from an overabundance of marine life 100 years ago to there being no marine life 100 years from now.
Robert Matthews, a criminology major at Humboldt State, had never heard of ocean acidification and learning about it shocked him.
“Ocean acidification is a big problem, it’s bad enough there is a trash vortex,” Matthews said.
Carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean helps reduce greenhouse gases in the environment, but this results in ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is when the carbon dioxide levels in the ocean change the chemistry of the seawater. Fossil fuel carbon emissions are also changing the chemistry of the ocean.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the oceans have absorbed 25 percent of the carbon dioxide produced since the beginning of the industrial revolution and humankind’s industrial and agricultural activities.
Biochemistry professor at HSU Jenny Cappuccio has been involved in a project with University of California, Berkeley by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the ground.
“I never expected to be involved in rocks, it wasn’t in my background. It’s great to learn new things,” Cappuccio said.
Cappuccio’s work on the project had to do with bacterial microbes converting carbon dioxide gas to carbon dioxide solid.
“Ocean acidified seawater has shifted [seawater] equilibrium to dissolve marine calcifying organisms, shells and corals, rather than build them,” Cappuccio said.
“Calcifying organisms like shells sequester carbon dioxide,” O’Shea said.
Oceanography professor Danny O’Shea has hope that we will be able to turn it around.
“Things are getting better faster than they are getting worse,” O’Shea said. “People like us are going to school and making positive changes out there.”
At HSU, students, staff and faculty are working to combat ocean acidification. HSU marine lab technician and student Kindle Murie has put her education and future into ocean acidification research.
“Lab work is paying off,” Murie said.
Murie is looking forward to a new research project on the effects of ocean acidification in kelp forests, both in the ocean and in the marine lab.
HSU has grown with knowledge and funding for ocean programs enabling students and faculty to do more research.
“Water gets more acidic the further you go down,” oceanographer Hal Greer said. “It is getting harder on the ocean and its organisms to buffer the affects of carbon dioxide.”
At the HSU marine lab, undergraduate and graduate students work together with professors making new research discoveries.
According to Grant Eberle, the HSU marine lab equipment technician, ocean acidification is currently a “hot topic.”
“We have a unique upwelling of reduced pH ocean acidic seawater in Trinidad,” Eberle said.
This unique setting gives students a good opportunity to research ocean acidification.
The oceans absorb more carbon dioxide and heat from the atmosphere every day. The importance of this research demands our attention.