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.

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Video: Ocean Acidification – A Threat to Economies and Cultures Around the World

Posted On August 21, 2014 by

Over these past three months, my blog series has taken you around the world and into the lives of marine dependent communities at risk from ocean acidification.  Hopefully this journey did for you what it did for me: showed how ocean acidification has the power to alter whole communities, and how these communities are in dire need of research, guidance and infrastructure to prepare for the challenges ahead.

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Science in the hands that need it: Turning the tide on ocean acidification in New Zealand

Posted On August 1, 2014 by

In 2013, I worked on a shellfish boat in New Zealand.  We used hydraulic systems to lift lines of shellfish out of the water, conveyor belts to sort them, and packaged mussels by the thousands in giant, half ton sacks.  A far cry from the low-tech nighttime dredging from a longtail boat I saw in Thailand.

With this technological edge, surely New Zealand shellfish farmers are less vulnerable to ocean acidification than those in regions like Southeast Asia.

But that is not what I found.  I found shellfish farmers in New Zealand to be highly vulnerable to ocean acidification. This wasn’t because the country lacked the technology or knowledge to be resilient, but because that technology and knowledge wasn’t making it into the hands of the shellfish farmers.

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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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