News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy
About Sarah Cooley
Sarah Cooley, Ph.D. is the Director of the Ocean Acidification Program at Ocean Conservancy. She is particularly interested in how global ocean changes like ocean acidification affect human communities, and she works to bring cutting-edge science into policy making.
The author as a junior scientist: writing computer programs, collecting specimens and troubleshooting equipment. Courtesy Sarah Cooley.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating stand out #WomeninConservation all week long. Here, Sarah Cooley, Director of our Ocean Acidification Program, writes a letter to her ten-year-old self. Check back every day for new blogs, and don’t forget to join our Twitter chat on Wednesday, March 8th at 1 pm EST!
I know you’re really busy with fourth grade right now, but I wanted to say “Hi!” from the future and cheer you on. You’re going to be a scientist, but I won’t tell you anything else. I don’t want to give away any of the journey! It’s a fun one. But, I will tell you that some things you’re doing now are really important for becoming me, your future self.
Keep on playing outside. All that wading in the creek behind the house in your rubber boots and looking at bugs and leaves and shiny rocks is going to leave lasting prints on your brain and your heart. Lots of grown-ups forget, or maybe never knew, how awesome the Earth is. So it’s easy for people to take clean water and air for granted. But the world needs you and your friends to remember what healthy creeks and forests and oceans look like so you can fight for them. You’ve got to stand up for nature, because it’s a lot quieter than money and fame. That’s hard work, so you’ve got to keep doing things the hard way, too. When you cross the creek on that shaky rope bridge your brother built, even though you could land in the water, it’s good practice. That’ll give you a taste for adventure, too, which will take you around the world!
I’m a scientist, and I’ve dedicated my life to finding solutions that help people and coastal communities. It may sound complicated, but really, it’s simple—if you add carbon emissions to seawater, the ocean turns more acidic. I’ve visited with shellfish growers and coastal businesses across the country, and I’ve seen firsthand the impacts of acidification.
So you can imagine my surprise, when Scott Pruitt—the nominee for the head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)—was asked directly by Senators about ocean acidification, he wasn’t even willing to admit that ocean acidification is happening.
How often have you gotten information you can really use from a friend, neighbor or family member? The kind that makes you say, “Ohhhhh…. That is SO helpful!” The key to these “aha moments” is often simply being well-connected with others having the same experience.
You may have heard coral reefs called “the rainforests of the sea,” but did you know they could also be called the “speed bumps of the ocean?” Not only do coral reefs host an estimated 25% of ocean species, but they also slow down and shrink waves that approach land. This keeps hundreds of millions of people safe and dry around the world. At the same time, coral reefs also offer these coastal dwellers many opportunities—for nutrition, their livelihoods and income based on coral reef-area fishing or tourism.
What happens when feisty, tough Dungeness crabs meet an even tougher bunch of fishermen? We’ll find out this fall in Discovery Channel’s new series, Dungeon Cove. The show highlights how the Newport, Oregon Dungeness crab fleet and the local community handle the dangers, victories and worries of the fishing season.
It’s clear that Dungeness fishing isn’t for the weak. Not only are the crabs often hard to find, hiding cleverly from fishermen or avoiding cunningly placed traps, but the working conditions are also dangerous. Simply exiting the Newport harbor is difficult at times, when wind and sea state cause waves to pile up and challenge the best helmsmen. Family members on land worry about their seagoing loved ones every day. Layer physical danger on top of economic concerns—many Dungeness fishermen are owner-operators, or essentially small business owners—and you have one tough job.
This week we’re celebrating all things coral! It’s no secret that coral reefs are spectacular ecosystems, but we wanted to do a deep dive into what exactly makes corals so special. Check out nine ways corals are even cooler than you thought:
1) Corals are like speed bumps. They slow down waves and lessen wave energy. This protects coastlines from hurricanes, cyclones and tsunamis. Coral reefs protect the shoreline in 81 countries around the world, sheltering the 200 million people living along those coasts.
Reef-building corals find refuge from climate change in mangrove habitats. Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.
Dr. KimberlyYates will be a panelist at an ocean acidification roundtable we are hosting in Miami this week. There, she will join other scientists, Florida elected officials and local businesspeople in discussing what ocean acidification has in store for Florida’s marine life and its coastal communities. Follow the meeting on Twitter via #FL_OA on Friday, June 17!
OC: Your research focuses on several marine habitats in Florida: coral reefs, estuaries and mangroves. How are they coping with ocean acidification?
Dr. Yates: Most of what we know about how ocean acidification is affecting these environments comes from experimental research. We know some marine organisms will be negatively impacted, and some may benefit. For example, some species that form their skeletons and shells from minerals made of calcium carbonate, like corals and some shellfish, are negatively impacted. Ocean acidification slows the rate at which they grow their skeletons and shells, and can also cause calcium carbonate minerals to dissolve.
Other species like seagrasses and some marine algae benefit from ocean acidification because it increases their growth rates. Coral reefs have been degrading rapidly over the past few decades, and recent research shows that some reefs in the Florida Keys are beginning to dissolve during certain times of the year from ocean acidification…which was not expected to happen for another few decades. Estuaries and mangrove wetlands support many species of shellfish, and ocean acidification may negatively impact those species and the economies that depend on shell fisheries. We are still learning about how changes caused by ocean acidification are impacting these habitats.