Ocean Currents

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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


About Julia Roberson

Julia is the Director of Strategic Communications and Ocean Acidification. Her passion is taking complex issues that affect our ocean and figuring out how to make them real and relevant to people. Her favorite sea creatures? On any given day it could be oysters, fishermen or manta rays. Follow her on Twitter @juliaroberson.


Harnessing the Power of Partnerships to Address Ocean Acidification

Posted On September 9, 2013 by

Today, the X Prize Foundation will announce something truly groundbreaking: a competition, sponsored by Wendy Schmidt, to address ocean acidification. Can I tell you how excited this makes me? There are people sitting up and paying attention to acidification, to the threat it poses to the ocean, and to the people and businesses that rely on a healthy ocean, in a way that didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Ocean acidification is a big deal—some say it is one of the biggest challenges we face—an ever-changing ocean as a result of carbon pollution from factories, cars and power plants being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. This means that animals like oysters, clams and mussels have trouble building the very shells needed for their survival.

So as we struggle to reduce carbon pollution, what can be done on ocean acidification? We must rely on monitoring and research to inform science and local responses.

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A Season of Hope for Progress on Ocean Acidification

Posted On September 5, 2013 by

Harvesting oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, California

Photo: Kathleen Hennessy / Ocean Conservancy

Fall is upon us, and with it comes a new season, new beginnings and new opportunities. The saying “hope springs eternal” evokes an entirely different season, but this autumn I’m feeling particularly excited and optimistic—and it has nothing to do with football. Great things are happening on ocean acidification, and this is an issue that I’m always happy to have something good to talk about.

Just last week, California announced a groundbreaking science panel comprised of world-class scientists from California, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Long a leader on environmental issues, California is taking a page from Washington state’s excellent playbook in tackling ocean acidification at the state and local level.

State efforts to address this issue are essential. Ocean acidification is a global ocean health problem, caused by our increasing carbon emissions from factories, cars and power plants being absorbed by the ocean—but its impacts are local. Ocean acidification is putting American jobs and livelihoods at risk.

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SCUBAnauts: Underwater Ambassadors of the Next Generation

Posted On June 17, 2013 by

I did not grow up with one foot in the ocean, like so many of my colleagues in ocean conservation. I am unequivocally from the mountains of western North Carolina. As a kid, the body of water I was most familiar with was a mountain stream. My family vacations consisted mainly of camping trips to places with names like Cataloochee, with a few beach trips here and there. I always saw the ocean as something “else” – something beyond my reach, however big and amazing and awesome it was.

But all that changed about a decade ago when I started working in marine conservation. I haven’t really looked back since – the more I’ve learned about the ocean and its diverse life, the more I want to learn. And the more I want to help other people see and understand how so much of what we depend on – health, food, air, enjoyment, inspiration – comes from this body of water that can be equally amazing and terrifying, depending on the day, hour or minute.

That’s why I was so excited and honored to meet the Tarpon Springs, FL Chapter of SCUBAnauts International while they were visiting Washington, DC for Capitol Hill Ocean Week. Young people 12-18 learn to scuba dive, conduct scientific research and develop conservation projects — all with the goal of fostering a greater understanding of our underwater world through hands-on experience and personal development. The SCUBAnauts have been diving for years – most of them since they were 12. I just learned to dive two months ago in Australia, and my first thought as I went underwater was, ‘why did I wait so long?’ (I could see this same question in the ‘nauts’ faces as I relayed this information). Even though I know, logically, that there is a whole other world beneath the waves, seeing it up close and personal brought it home for me in a way I can’t describe. These young people are experiencing that underwater magic at an age that can influence their entire view of the world.

The SCUBAnauts and I talked about ocean acidification, a growing problem that is putting what they care about at risk. As we emit more and more carbon pollution into the atmosphere, from factories, cars, power plants, the ocean absorbs roughly a quarter of those emissions. When this much carbon is being absorbed by the ocean, a chemical process occurs, turning the ocean more acidic. Oysters, clams, mussels, coral and other animals have trouble building the shells necessary for their survival. It’s a problem that is already impacting coastal communities and businesses. The SCUBAnauts asked what they can do about ocean acidification. My response: “talk about it to your friends and family. Learn about it. Share stories about acidification on facebook, twitter. Make it the topic of your research.” To solve the problem, people first need to know about the problem.

There are so many huge challenges facing our ocean – acidification, overfishing, pollution. The root of many of these problems is a lack of understanding of how much we all rely on the ocean. From those of us who grow up in the mountains, to the Midwest, to the coast – we all need a healthy ocean. It provides us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, the places nearest and dearest to our heart. The SCUBAnauts give me hope that we can tackle these problems. They are ocean ambassadors for the next generation.

Why Exploring the Ocean is More than Cool, it’s Vital

Posted On June 11, 2013 by

The submersible Deepsea Challenger which James Cameron piloted to the deepest parts of the ocean floor, on display outside Senate office buildings in Washington, DC — credit Julia Roberson

Later today filmmaker and ocean explorer James Cameron will be headlining a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee about the importance of funding ocean science and exploration. Also on display outside the hearing is the Deepsea Challenger, the submersible Cameron piloted in a historic solo dive to the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench.

Fantastic voyages like the one taken by James Cameron are truly inspiring for the sheer physical accomplishment. But they are also a stark reminder of how little we still know and understand about the ocean. In a world where the chemistry of the ocean is now changing faster than life can adapt, it’s vitally important that we learn as much as we can about the ocean to better prepare for the future.

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Video: In Washington State Ocean Acidification is about People

Posted On April 26, 2013 by

“I am hopeful.” “There are actions we can take.” “Republicans and Democrats are working together.”

Not phrases you often hear these days, especially with some of the more challenging issues we face as a society.  But this type of action and partnership is exactly what is taking place right now in Washington state to tackle ocean acidification.  Washington’s people and businesses have been hit hard by this invisible problem – caused by increasing carbon pollution from land being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. Many animals are struggling to build their shells in increasingly acidic water – and local pollutants in coastal areas make the problem worse.  Oyster growers have experienced massive die-offs, and this is an industry that brings in $272 million to Washington annually – and directly employs around 3,200 people.  So the state and its people are fighting back.  Watch the video and learn how.  



Ocean Acidification: How One Coastal State Starts to Tackle a Global Challenge

Posted On November 27, 2012 by

Credit: swamibu flickr stream

Seattle–one of my favorite cities. I first came here in 2006 and fell in love with Puget Sound, the strong smell of coffee and the surprisingly steep downtown streets that make my morning runs more challenging than I’m used to, given the gentle slopes of DC.

Today I’ve just attended an event at the beautiful Seattle Aquarium to hear Washington Governor Christine Gregoire announce the first ever state response to ocean acidification — a little-known threat that hit the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry like an invisible ton of bricks back in 2007 and now has top billing in Washington and across the country today.

Ocean acidification is what happens when significant amounts of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the ocean.  A chemical reaction is occurring in our oceans right now as our carbon emissions increase.  Because of the amount of carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean, its pH is lowered, turning it more acidic. The ocean is 25% more acidic than it was before the Industrial Revolution.

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