The Blog Aquatic

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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

About Alexis Valauri-Orton

Alexis was born and raised in Seattle and harbors a lifelong love of all things marine. She received her BS in Biology from Davidson College in 2012, and from July 2012-2013, she traveled the world on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, investigating how ocean acidification might affect human communities in Norway, Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, and Peru. She has designed curricular tools for teaching about ocean acidification and worked for Global Ocean Health helping facilitate projects to build adaptive capacity against ocean acidification in vulnerable communities. She is currently the ocean acidification intern at Ocean Conservancy.

Sight and Smell: How Traditional Methods Won’t Hold up Against Ocean Acidification

Posted On July 25, 2014 by

Ocean acidification is invisible to the naked eye.  It’s not something we can smell, not something we can feel with our fingers.  But in many parts of the world, that’s just how fishermen and shellfish farmers assess the water they work in.

Right now, the methods we have to understand and respond to ocean acidification are expensive, requiring a lot of equipment.  For example, oyster farmers in the Pacific Northwest rely on ocean monitoring systems that tell them the condition of the water, high-tech hatcheries that give them a controlled environment in which to rear their oysters, and buffering systems that allow them to neutralize the water coming in and make it suitable for oyster growth.

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The Thing You Can’t Measure: Ocean Acidification Threatens Culture and Identity in New Zealand

Posted On July 18, 2014 by

Photo: Alexis Valauri-Orton

These last two weeks, I have shared stories of how ocean acidification could affect economies around the world. These tangible impacts can be measured by changes in jobs, access to resources and overall economic condition. But what about the impacts you can’t measure? What will those changes be, and how will they affect people?

Throughout my Watson Fellowship, I sought to understand these intangible impacts. These hard-to-measure threats to things like one’s sense of place, identity and culture may not have dollar signs behind them, but to many of the people I spoke with, they were of utmost importance.

To explain this, I will share what I learned about the value of marine resources in New Zealand. There are two strong cultural lineages in New Zealand – the indigenous Maori community, and the descendants of Western settlers, who came primarily from England. Despite their distinct backgrounds, my conversations with both groups came to the same conclusion: the availability of seafood in New Zealand, particularly shellfish, is a matter of identity. If that seafood is gone, then the identity of the entire country suffers.

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The Ground Beneath Their Feet: The Threat of Ocean Acidification to a Small Island

Posted On July 10, 2014 by

What if the ground beneath your feet, the very foundation of your life and livelihood, was at risk of eroding away?  What if the very thing from which you and your community draw 95% of your wealth was at risk of disappearing?

This is the reality that Aitutaki, a small island in the Cook Islands, and many other small islands around the world, are facing.  Aitutaki, and its stunning lagoon, is protected by a coral reef.  Powerful ocean waves crash on the edges of the reef, but because coral reduces wave strength by 97%, the lagoon and the coral sand beaches remain still and calm.  The value of this protection, and the environment it creates, cannot be overstated.

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What Will Ocean Acidification Mean for a Small Town in Peru?

Posted On June 30, 2014 by

Photo: Alexis Valauri-Orton

At the Our Ocean Conference, I had five minutes to tell an international audience why ocean acidification is a problem for people around the world. With my blog series this summer, we’re going to explore this further. I will share the stories of the people I met last year; stories that taught me how ocean acidification could threaten economies and cultures; stories that taught me the crucial need for increased monitoring, research and technology; and stories that taught me how all of us have a role to play in addressing ocean acidification.

Let’s start with the threat to economies. Just how important are the resources threatened by ocean acidification? To answer this, I want to tell you about two places that are very special to me: Sechura, in Northern Peru, and Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands. First, I will tell you about the scallop farming region of Sechura, and in my next post the tropical paradise of Aitutaki.

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Momentum to Address Ocean Acidification Grows at the Our Ocean Conference

Posted On June 20, 2014 by

On Monday and Tuesday, I witnessed something inspiring.  I watched my Secretary of State, John Kerry, passionately and forcefully address the pressing ocean issues of our time.  I watched leaders from around the world come together and commit to protecting the ocean—the precious resource that, as my fellow panelist Carol Turley said, “Is what makes Earth different from all other planets.”

Above all, I listened and watched as ocean acidification, an issue I have been passionate about for years, became a focal point of dialogue on ocean conservation. President Obama and Secretary Kerry spoke strongly, and did not try to weasel their way around the issues at hand.  Sir David King, Special Representative for Climate Change in the United Kingdom, said, “Climate change, together with ocean acidification, represents the greatest diplomatic challenge of our time.”  Secretary Kerry called for a change in politics, saying “Energy policy is the solution to climate change.”

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The World is Ready For the Our Ocean Conference, and the Conference is Ready For You

Posted On June 12, 2014 by

Photo: Alexis Valauri-Orton

On June 16-17th, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Department of State will bring together scientists, stakeholders and leaders from around the world for the Our Ocean Conference. This international event will focus on three pressing ocean issues: sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification. I am honored to be speaking on the ocean acidification panel at this conference.

I will be sharing stories I gathered from my year-long Watson Fellowship, studying how ocean acidification might affect human communities around the world. Over that year, I saw just how far-reaching ocean acidification’s impacts could be. We already know, from our experience in the US, that it hurts shellfish growers and the communities that depend on them. But around the world, there are whole countries and communities that depend on threatened species, such as coral for tourism, and fish for food and livelihoods. The stories I heard convinced me that we need to raise awareness and take action against ocean acidification at the international level. Here are some of those stories:

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From a Year Around the World to Our Office in DC: Meet Our New Ocean Acidification Intern!

Posted On June 9, 2014 by

You never know what small action might set the course of your life. For me, it was an article placed on my bed by my father when I was 17. “The Darkening Sea,” written by Elizabeth Kolbert and published in The New Yorker in November, 2006, tells how carbon dioxide pollution is turning the ocean more acidic, with potentially huge impacts on ocean systems.

Kolbert describes how pteropods, tiny marine snails at the base of many marine food webs, begin to dissolve as the ocean becomes more acidic. An image of a pteropod, cracked and dissolving after a mere 48 hours in acidic water, became branded into my mind, and ocean acidification became an international crisis I couldn’t forget.

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