Ocean Acidification

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s Ocean Challenge

In spring 2013, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation issued a challenge for promising ideas on how to reduce the impact of ocean acidification. PSRF and a topnotch team of collaborators gamely threw together a concept proposal to test out one of the Key Early Actions identified in the Blue Ribbon Panel report (Action 6.1.1). Based on the notion that kelps and seaweeds naturally draw down CO2 in marine water, and that seaweeds are a prolific biological resource in Puget Sound, the PSRF team proposed to cultivate seaweeds at three demonstration sites, assess the effect on carbonate chemistry, and harvest the biomass to create a suite of products (fertilizer, food, fuel).

A total of 36 concepts were received from 7 countries and evaluated by a team of experts. In the fall of 2013, PSRF received word that our submission was selected as one of six Ocean Challenge finalists! Information about the Ocean Challenge can be found at: http://www.pgafamilyfoundation.org/oceanchallenge/TemplateMain.aspx?cont...

In the coming years, PSRF hopes to launch a multi-year investigation to see if cultivating seaweeds can reduce CO2, create localized sanctuaries for sensitive marine organisms, and generate useful products for the marketplace that could eventually pay for the operation.

Puget Sound Restoration Fund Awarded $1.5 Million Grant by Paul G. Allen
Oceans Challenge grant will support research on seaweed cultivation as a potential strategy for mitigating ocean acidification

On April 16, 2015, The Puget Sound Restoration Fund formally announced it has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to investigate seaweed cultivation as a potential strategy for mitigating ocean acidification. The initiative, Cultivating Seaweeds in Puget Sound to Protect Shellfish and other sensitive species from Ocean Acidification, will be led by Dr. Jonathan (Joth) Davis, senior scientist, and Betsy Peabody, executive director, at the Puget Sound Restoration Fund in collaboration with the University of Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among many other partners.

The grant was first announced on April 2 at the Seattle Aquarium during the Addressing Ocean Acidification: Innovation, Cooperation and Leadership event. Over the project’s five-year timeline, it aims to harness the ability of marine macro algae to extract dissolved carbon dioxide and other excess nutrients in order to mitigate ocean acidification and eutrophication in Puget Sound. This will have the potential to create protective halos in the vicinity of the seaweed that may provide critical habitat for marine species and valuable by-products such as food, bio-fuels and fertilizers.

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Oyster Emergency Monitoring, 2009 – 2010

Ocean acidification in Puget Sound was first observed by the shellfish industry. Larval mortalities in select hatcheries and natural set failures in Hood Canal and Willapa Bay created growing alarm over the potential effects of corrosive seawater. Subsequent studies revealed that seasonal upwelling of deep oceanic waters was bringing carbon-rich, low pH water to the surface, which was adversely affecting molluscan bivalve larvae reared in hatchery facilities. This raised larger questions about whether chemical changes in seawater were affecting natural populations of shellfish as well. To investigate this further, the Puget Sound Partnership awarded a grant to PSRF, NOAA, UW, PSI and Baywater, Inc. to establish index stations at two important shellfish growing areas in Puget Sound– Big Cove, Totten Inlet in southern Puget Sound and Dabob Bay in Hood Canal. Click here for more information.


Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, 2012

In March 2012, as part of the Washington Shellfish Initiative, Governor Gregoire appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel on ocean acidification to advance our scientific understanding and develop an action plan to reduce harmful effects on Washington’s shellfish and other marine resources. Bill Ruckelshaus and Jay Manning led a 28-member team that developed a set of 42 recommended actions, released in November 2012. PSRF’s executive director, Betsy Peabody, served on the panel alongside tribal, state, federal, and policy experts, scientists, public opinion leaders and industry representatives. A copy of the final report can be found on Department of Ecology’s website at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oa/2012panel.html


Marine Resources Advisory Council, 2013

The 2013 legislature appointed the Marine Resources Advisory Council, within the Governor's office, to maintain a sustainable coordinated focus on ocean acidification. In 2014 and 2015, PSRF’s Betsy Peabody worked with the Advisory Committee to advance mitigation and outreach/education proposals to further the work of the Blue Ribbon Panel and to gain traction on specific recommendations.. More information about the Marine Resources Advisory Council is available at: www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html


Piloting Ocean Acidification Curricula in Schools

One of the 42 action recommendations included in Washington State’s Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Ocean Acidification is to “Develop, adapt, and use curricula on ocean acidification in K-12 schools and higher education.” (Action 8.2.1) Since the report was released in 2012, PSRF has worked collaboratively to advance this particular recommendation by launching the two programs described below.

Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum
A novel environmental science program pioneered by Julie Hirsch in 2012, the Garden of the Salish Sea curriculum (GSSC) was launched as an offshoot of two Puget Sound Restoration Fund projects, the Drayton Harbor Community Oyster Farm and ocean acidification monitoring. The program combines an on-line curriculum and pledge program with experiences in the field and scientific inquiry in order to teach over 400 Whatcom County school-age kids each year about the actions they and their families can take to maintain healthy shellfish resources amid changing ocean conditions. The Whatcom Community Foundation ($110,000) and the Alcoa Foundation ($70,000) have contributed generously to help establish and expand the Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum. Building on these early successes, the program is poised to expand. Beginning in 2016, GSSC will be sponsored by Pacific Shellfish Institute in order to extend its reach both programmatically and geographically. Information about the program can be found at the following link: http://www.restorationfund.org/salishseacurriculum

Field-testing OA Curricula in Bainbridge Island Schools
In 2014 and 2015, a $41,010 3M Eco Grant helped bring ocean acidification to STEM students at Bainbridge High School. Field excursions to PSRF’s Port Madison Community Shellfish Farm, shellfish restoration hatchery, and nearby Olympia oyster restoration sites provided a real-world laboratory for showing students how ocean acidification affects local shellfish resources, and how that might affect the health of local waters in the future. Through this program, students have also become familiar with the instruments and sensors used to monitor pH and other ocean acidification indicators. Collaborators include Bainbridge Island School District’s STEM program, Eagle Harbor High School, the Suquamish Tribe, Washington Sea Grant, Washington State science teachers, the University of Washington and NOAA.