The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Two news, one good and one bad. Then the ugly:

THE GOOD: NASA claims to have developed an innovative method called OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae), that grows algae, cleans waste-water, captures carbon dioxide and ultimately generates biofuel without competing with agriculture for water, fertilizer or land.  Wow.
The system is made up of large flexible plastic tubes called photobioreactors. They float in seawater and contain freshwater algae growing in waste-water. These algae are among the fastest growing plants on Earth.  They use energy from the sun, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the waste-water to produce biomass that can be turned into biofuel and other valuable products such as fertilizer and animal food. In the process, the algae clean the waste-water by removing nutrients that would otherwise contribute to forming marine deadzones.Photo: NASA
The objective of this project is to investigate the technical feasibility of a unique floating algae cultivation system that could lead to commercial uses. Research by scientists and engineers has so far shown that OMEGA is an effective way to grow microalgae and treat waste-water on a small scale.
NASA is analyzing the OMEGA system as an alternative way to generate aviation fuels. Potential implications of replacing fossil fuels include reducing the release of green house gases, decreasing ocean acidification and enhancing national security.
Photo: NASA
OMEGA Project Accomplishments:
(NASA OMEGA project: Jan 2010 – May 2012)
    •    Demonstrated controlled microalgae growth on waste-water in floating PBRs.
    •    Operated 100, 200, 1,600, and 3,200-liter PBR systems for repeated algal growth cycles.
    •    Showed that forward osmosis could be potentially coupled with OMEGA to enhance both biomass production and waste-water treatment.
    •    Showed efficient uptake of CO2 using gas exchange column.
    •    Developed protocols for harvesting algae and controlling grazers.
    •    Determined impact of biofouling.

THE BAD: A team of researchers from the University of Queensland has studied how Ocean Acidification affects the settlement of baby corals onto a reef.  This important study found that the increase in acidity in the oceans has a dramatic effect on their ability to survive.  Christopher Doropoulos, lead author of the study, commented that “baby corals are initially found as swimming larvae before they choose their place to attach to the reef and settle for life, a critical step to their survival and the maintenance of coral reefs. […] The coral larvae normally have this amazing ability to settle on one particular type of rock-like seaweed called Titanoderma. This stony seaweed is a safe haven for young corals, yet we found that, as levels of ocean acidification increased, the coral larvae avoided this seaweed and started to settle absolutely anywhere.”
Photo: A male stony coral releases sperm into the water
“Ocean acidification also changed the types of seaweeds available to the corals and had a damaging effect on their preferred species of Titanoderma,” said Mr Doropoulos.
“Our study identifies three major negative impacts of ocean acidification on baby corals. It reduces the number of corals settling, it disrupts their behavior so that they make unwise decisions, and reduces the availability of the most desirable substrate for their survival. This may have severe consequences for how coral reefs function and how they recover from major disturbances.”


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Moncktons And Abrahams
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Whether in our tangible daily slippers-and-ties lives or in our ever growing virtual internet browsing hours, we are often faced with opinions and discourses about the environment, about scientific work and data that are diametrically opposed to what we see and read everywhere.  The environment has become a polarized political and economic discussion (specially in the USA) when it should not be either, and the message from one end tends to mostly deliver noise, distortion and denial as a ways to counteract scientific work and research.  It often also wears the disguise of science.  I am no man of science, was always told that math and chemistry were not in our family genes, so I have no scientific instruction and must admit it often times takes me a while of reading an article or an internet post to realize I am in the hands of a "Monckton".  What follows is all old news, you must have seen it and read about it, but this past weekend I finally watched John Abraham's presentation "A Scientist Replies to Christopher Monckton" and thought it was my duty to post it here, even if it has been so long since that storm passed.  Abraham calmly, with a gentle voice dissects during 73 minutes a previous lecture delivered by Christopher Monckton, a British aristocrat, arguably the most famous denier of climate change, of Ocean Acidification and of any environmental threat that might even cross your mind.  Thanks to his scientific background and after devoting hundreds of hours to the task, John Abrahams wrote to the scientists and institutions "cited" on Monckton's lecture and analyzed the graphs, debunking them one by one, showing scientific malpractice (not a surprise, since Monckton is no scientist and has never written a single peer-reviewed science paper on any topic), inaccuracies and made up information to support his proposals.  Abrahams kind of did what I had secretly wished to find out: exactly how much truth is there behind a denier's words.  It is wonderful work and it deserves to be listened to, so HERE I include the link and encourage you to go to it. In slides 67, 68, 69 he talks about Ocean Acidification.

In case you do not know Monckton and his opinions, here is lecture at Saint Paul:

And here I also found Monckton's raging response to Abraham's presentation, at what I believe must be a radio show. No need to comment:

Finally I found the lecture titled "Critical Thinking on Climate Change: separating skepticism from denial", by Dr. Richard Milne, particularly interesting and a good complement to the videos and presentations above:



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Salt Water Videos
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Great salty videos in today's menu.  Why?: Why not?

Fish with transparent head:

Encounter with whale:

Bizarre Japanese fish:

Ocean's Oases:

Might not be fair to take sides, but we all like it when the little one gets away:

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Ocean Acidification and Education
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Inspired by our upcoming screenings for students this Thursday and Friday in the Southern Chilean town of Puerto Montt we want to post information for and about students and Ocean Acidification:

»Students from the Ridgeway School (Plymouth, UK) were commissioned by the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA) and the UK Plymouth Marine Laboratory to produce an animation film to explain the issue of Ocean Acidification to young people.  They talked to scientists, conducted their own research both at school and in the National Marine Aquarium and were involved in the whole process of animation.  The result was this 8 minute film that won the Royal Society of Chemistry's Bill Bryson Prize.

»Last month youngsters from Ivybridge Community College,UK, and from Brest, Brittany got together and exchanged ideas and oppinions on invasive non-native species and Ocean Acidification.  The event was supported by Marinexus, a cross-channel research and outreach project to bring together marine science and outreach in Devon and Brittany to raise awareness of marine ecosystems in the Western Channel and of their ability to cope with the effects of human activity.

»The classic Ocean Acidification experiment with vinegar and white chalkboard chalk carried out at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego, California. Easy to replicate in any school:

»Santa Monica High School’s "Car Team" students of Team Marine won First Place out of 35 high schools in the 2011-12 QuikSCience Challenge, a regional environmental science ocean stewardship competition. Since the beginning of the school year, “Car Team” students have worked to convert a 1971 red convertible Volkswagen Super Beetle into a 100 percent electric vehicle (short video). With their zero-emission car awaiting its final step (installation of the battery pack), the students’ “lesson plan on wheels” will soon be wrapped with the logos of all sponsors and showcased across Los Angeles County at schools and community events to promote cleaner alternative transportation. As part of their competition, they also went to Lincoln and John Adams Middle Schools to educate youth about the problems of and solutions to climate change and ocean acidification.
As part of the conversion process, the students have created a manual with pictures intended to help others repeat the process. Students have worked with local electric car experts, including Paul Pearson of Gas to Electric Conversions, as well as Samohi's automotive teacher Dan Cox, and City Hall's Rick Sikes to develop the manual.
Photo: Team Marine

»Links to another Acidification test you can do at home or in the class.  All you will need is a red cabbage, drinking straws and very small cups.  Details can be found HERE and if you prefer to watch a quick demo video of the experiment and meet a young student preparing herself to be the first person on Mars click HERE.

»University of Miami grad student Rachel Heuer has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to study how Gulf toadfish (Opsanus beta) might cope with Ocean Acidification.
Photo: FAO
 "Her initial findings indicate that toadfish exposed to elevated CO2 levels, relevant for the near future and current upwelling regions, lose increased amounts of base from the body through the intestine. This is problematic since toadfish and other marine fishes need to retain bases to help them cope with acidic environments. Heuer's preliminary findings suggest that this intestinal base loss negatively affects their overall pH balance and health.
"During my NSF Fellowship, I hope to build upon these findings by assessing the energetic cost and exploring the effects of long-term CO2 exposure in the Gulf toadfish. I am excited to utilize this fellowship to contribute to a rapidly expanding field of ocean acidification research," says Heuer."

»College of Charleston graduate student Jennifer Bennet is one of the recipients of the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship this year.  She earned her M.S. in marine biology and will serve at the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmostpheric Research Ocean Acidification Program helping scientists there optimize and standardize  data collection so it can be easily translated for the public.  Bennett will also engage stakeholder groups to determine their information needs for effective decision-making about Ocean Acidification impacts.
Photo (Jennifer Bennett):

»Finally, for those that have finished their studies and are looking for work the Imperial College London offers a 3 year Postdoc in Modelling Biodiversity Responses to Human Impact.  The main research objective is to develop a rigorous global model of how local biodiversity responds to human impacts, in order to support projections of how alternative socio-political scenarios will affect global and regional biodiversity. Biodiversity data will come from published comparisons of assemblage composition along gradients of threat intensity. You will develop and populate a database of precise measures of threat intensity corresponding to the diversity data, developing new measures from remote-sensed data as necessary; you will also develop a database to hold species=92 functional trait data. You will employ advanced statistical modelling tool, such as generalized additive mixed models, to relate diversity to threat intensity. The successful candidate will work closely with Professor Andy Purvis (the Principal Investigator).
You must have a PhD in Ecology or Environmental Science or have equivalent level of professional qualifications and experience.  For more details, click HERE
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End Of April News
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

»The Center for Biological Diversity has launched a new Endangered Oceans campaign in the US to save our sea life from the "unprecedented threat" of Ocean Acidification.  The website is WWW.ENDANGEREDOCEANS.ORG and they want to call on "the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to produce a national action plan to tackle ocean acidification".  You can sign their petition HERE and you can learn how some species are already being harmed by Ocean Acidification and how others will soon follow suit HERE.

»Australia's "Foreign Minister Bob Carr has announced the government will provide $1 million to a participation fund to help small island developing states participate in the Rio+20 conference in June.
The conference will include debate on how to sustainably manage the world's oceans.
"Small island developing states live most directly with the disastrous reality of climate change," Senator Carr said on Thursday.  "Now they are facing an additional threat from ocean acidification."  Senator Carr said it was crucial that the nations with so much at stake should be able to have their voices heard.  "Declining ocean water quality is already killing fish, other marine species and marine vegetation," he said."

»North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher video about the effects that carbon dioxide emissions have on sea invertebrates.

»"Researchers at  Seattle and Oregon State University have definitively linked an increase in ocean acidification to the collapse of oyster seed production at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon, where larval growth had declined to a level considered by the owners to be "non-economically viable."
A study by the researchers found that elevated seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, resulting in more corrosive ocean water, inhibited the larval oysters from developing their shells and growing at a pace that would make commercial production cost-effective. As atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, this may serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine for other ocean acidification impacts on shellfish, the scientists say."
Results of the research were published in early April in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.

»NBC News piece on the danger of extinction for 56 coral species from water warming and Ocean Acidification:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


»German scientists Kai T. Lohbeck, Ulf Riebesell and Thorsten B. H. Reusch have published on a an article about the "Adaptative evolution of a key phytoplankton species to Ocean Acidification".  The researchers examined the ability of the world's single most important calcifying organism, the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi, to evolve in response to Ocean Acidification.  They say: "Specifically, we exposed E. huxleyi populations founded by single or multiple clones to increased concentrations of CO2. Around 500 asexual generations later we assessed their fitness. Compared with populations kept at ambient CO2 partial pressure, those selected at increased partial pressure exhibited higher growth rates, in both the single- and multiclone experiment, when tested under ocean acidification conditions. Calcification was partly restored: rates were lower under increased CO2 conditions in all cultures, but were up to 50% higher in adapted compared with non-adapted cultures. We suggest that contemporary evolution could help to maintain the functionality of microbial processes at the base of marine food webs in the face of global change."
Read more about it on the SOURCE page.
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News, Some Good
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle        

»Washington State became last month the first in the USA to create an expert panel on Ocean Acidification. The panel, convened by Gov. Chris Gregoire, is made up of scientists, seafood industry representatives and local and tribal officials.  It has set up three tasks:
1    Survey the latest science to find out what we know, and don’t know.
2    Set priorities for additional investment in research and monitoring.
3    Craft a set of practical, affordable policy recommendations to address the root causes of acidification or help businesses and natural communities adapt.  

»The Ocean Ark Alliance in collaboration with Melbourne Aquarium will be hosting the largest environmental art show in Australia this coming October.  There will be $50,000 in prize money to School Environmental Project Grants and Student Study Grants to any 9-12 year student in Victoria. OAA hopes in time this will become a national and international initiative.
Full entry details will be released before the end of the month HERE.

»The UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department of Energy and Climate Change is launching a £13 million center for carbon capture and storage research that will be coordinated at the University of Edinburgh and bring together in a virtual network over 100 of the best UK carbon capture and storage academics.
"The new state-of-the-art capture research facilities will allow UK scientists and engineers to uncover the complexities of carbon capture and work with industrial partners and SMEs to develop improved capture technologies. They include:
1    Pilot scale advanced testing facilities in Yorkshire, with a 1 ton CO2 per day amine capture facility
2    A mobile testing unit to allow a range of tests to be conducted on real power station flue gases
3    Advanced oxy-fuel fluidized bed and chemical looping pilot facilities."
"The UK has a target to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a significant task that requires systemic changes to every sector of energy generation and use, including in industrial applications."

»A fungi capable of degrading and utilizing common plastic polyurethane has been discovered in the Amazon rainforest.  The Yale University team responsible for the discovery has published its findings in the article "Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi" for the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal.

»If you live in California you might want to download Why Ocean Acidification Matters To California.

»Not many prominent political leaders include the environment and the state of the world's oceans in their speeches and agenda.  That is why we want to mention in this blog the work and words of Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, who recently visited the UN headquarters in New York to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a group of UN ambassadors to discuss a plan to protect and manage the oceans.  During a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald he had no difficulty mixing the discussion on problems in Afghanistan and between the West and Islamist countries together with over-fishing, the danger of Acidification and "the emergence of huge dead seas".  ''I'm just nagged by the worry that we might be with the oceans where we were in 1975 or 1980 with awareness of what we were doing to the Earth's atmosphere,'' he said. ''We don't know how quickly a tipping point might be reached."

»NOAA's Ocean Acidification Program Office, the University of Washington and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Association are preparing an invitational workshop on defining a global network for Ocean Acidification monitoring.  It will be held June 26-28, 2012 in Seattle, WA, and will include representatives from around the world.  The principal goals of this international workshop are:
1    To design the components and locations of an international ocean acidification observing network that includes repeat hydrographic surveys, underway measurements on volunteer observing ships, moorings, floats, and gliders, leveraging existing networks and programs wherever possible.
2    To identify measurement parameters and performance metrics for each major component of the observing system.
3    To develop a strategy for data quality assurance and distribution.

»World map time lapse about the history of human global CO2 emissions.
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Tangled Up In Words
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

In an LA Times article titled "In Science, Words Matter" oceanographer Elizabeth Tobin refers to the often talked about controversy that terms like the "great Pacific garbage patch", the algae "red tide", "global warming", "Ocean Acidification", etc tend to be hyperbolic, inaccurate and in occasions simply wrong.  She is worried this imprecise and exaggerated language probably aimed at providing "catchier headlines" could invite disbelief in the general public.
To a small, basic extent I can share the essence of this repeated argument:  words are important, should be handled with care and taken seriously.  But several aspects of the "Ocean Acidification is a lie" rhetoric I find somewhat irritating:  the first one is that nobody dares offer an alternative to the term.  I have talked in the past about how some of the scientists we met and interviewed for the documentary did not like the term "Ocean Acidification" either and wanted to come up with something easier to say and remember ("acidification" is anything but catchy and is not really getting many headlines so far, I am afraid), something that was closer to the reality, the phenomenon it tries to represent.
But I will even disagree with the idea that "Acidification" is the wrong substantive for these basic oceans. Should it be "de-basification", or "neutralization"?  The neologism "debasification" would even raise more brows than poor, tongue-tiring Acidification, "neutralization" would be a lie as well, as we will never reach neutral sea waters either. And why would "Acidification" be wrong if what it does is describe the direction a dropping pH is heading?  Because it is hyperbolic?  But aren't the consequences of Ocean Acidification the same on calcifying organisms as what you see happens to chalk when immersed in vinegar?
Put any term under the same lens and see if it stands such scrutiny.  What should we think of "Evolution", of the "Second World War", of "Democracy"?  You can have a very thick set of hair and witness you are balding, there is no need to wait until there are three hairs left to say it.  
I do not  like "Acidification" much, but the real contribution and challenge is to come up with better alternatives.
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Seeing Ghosts
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Over the past few days you might have read about a Japanese "ghost ship", a victim of last year's tsunami, that just reached British Columbia. Experts expected most of the 20 million tons of debris from the natural disaster (about the size of California!) to arrive to the other side of the Pacific by 2014, but sea currents have obviously been faster than previously thought.

Watch THIS video.
We tend to ignore the importance and extent of sea currents.  Up until now they were invisible, ghostly too, even if their presence and influence is felt everywhere: in sailing, shipping, fishing, in weather patterns thousands of miles offshore, in migratory routes.  Thanks to NASA, the invisible turns now visible in this astounding footage that reveals massive currents, siphon flows in the Gulf of Mexico, linked vortex that evoke Van Gogh's Starry Night along the African coast.  You can even see the current that over 365 days relentlessly cradled the mystery ship from Asia to America.
As a footnote, this visualization and all the information coming from the NASA/JPS computational model called "Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II" (ECCO2) will be very valuable in the study of Ocean Acidification, climate change and pollution control.
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Winterless Spring
Saturday, June 10, 2017

By Daniel de la Calle

As seasons disappear and blend together, summer swallowing autumn and winter coming in glimpses and bursts, spring is still our queen of hope, a beginning, the unraveling of emotions and profusion: creativity.
If you live in a city spring might make you lust green in the eyes and in mouth, an irresistible desire to chew on leaves and watch berries grow.  Do not worry, this is completely normal and thanks to Swedish design firm Plantagon will soon be possible... in the city of Linköping.
By the end of 2013 they hope to have finished the first 17-story high "vertical greenhouse"; maybe the idea will propagate.
"The greenhouse will serve as a regenerating food bank, tackling urban sprawl while making the city self-sufficient. Plantagon predicts that growing these plants in the city will make food production less costly both for the environment and for consumers, a key shift as the world's population grows increasingly urban—80 percent of the world's residents will live in cities by 2050, the United Nations estimates."


If you currently live or happen to be in Australia do not miss the chance to visit the exhibit titled "Coral: Art, Science Life" at Macleay Museum, in the University of Sydney.  Fascinating concept; you know how we like that mix of art, science and nature:
"In Coral: art four artists exhibit works that explore our relationship with this fragile waterscape. In Coral: science the work of four University scientists demonstrates the importance of research for understanding the reefs and their future. In Coral: life two schools in the Torres Strait share their vision of living on the reefs of the Coral Sea."
More info HERE

PHOTO: Jenny Pollak, 1 Degree of Separation, 2011, courtesy the artist and the Macleay Museum.

And following up on the idea of abundance and visual beauty, enjoy this video of the now almost famous Jellyfish Lake, on the island of Palau:

Those stingless jellyfish resemble flying and blossoming flowers in outer space, which takes my typing fingers to the cherry blossoms in Washington DC, which we assume must be at their peak these days.  If anyone is interested in the science behind such synchrony:

We want to finish today with a gratifying, grand finale aftertaste, so here you have the "Stars as Viewed from the International Space Station", a reminder of the beauty around us.

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All Sorts Of News
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

»When the media loves something it just takes over the internet.  News came out yesterday about the new study by the Stockholm Environment Institute titled "Valuing the Ocean" where marine experts analyzed the most severe threats facing the world's marine environment and estimated the cost of damage a year coming from Ocean Acidification, sea level rise, global warming, pollution, species migration and increased intensity in tropical cyclones.  The Swedish institution believes that by the year 2100 it could reach $2 trillion a year.  Amongst all the possible links I could give you to this same news, HERE is one that appropriately comes from the business section of the Chicago Tribune.
Oh, those figures do not take into account the possibility of small island states disappearing by rising seas or the impact of warming on the ocean's basic processes, such as nutrient recycling.

»If you have never seen it before, this is your chance to watch an Ocean Acidification buoy deployment (in Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary, Massachusetts, last year):

»Today is World Water Day, next week it will be Earth Hour. All these initiatives have such a bittersweet aftertaste, like some art of frustrating encouragement.

»Lecture on Climate Change and Ocean Acidification this Sunday, March 25th, at Joyce Beers Community Center, in San Diego, California.  Daniel Richter, PhD candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography will deliver the lecture, which is this month's meeting of the SD Association for Rational Inquiry.

»Today, March 22nd, from 6 to 8PM, there will be an Ocean Acidification Seminar at the Padilla Bay Reserve - 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd.  Mt Vernon, WA 98273 
I read on their website: "Are you curious about the effects of carbon pollution on our oceans?  Join two of Washington state's leading science and policy experts to learn about this issue and new research in Washington state. This event is free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by the Northwest Straits Commission, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, and the Whatcom and Skagit Marine Resources Committees."

»On Friday March 30th the "College of Science and Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will present Dr. Bill Landing, professor of oceanography at Florida State University, who will speak on “Mercury Deposition in the Gulf of Mexico” on Friday, March 30, at 3:30 p.m. in the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, conference room 127."

»Playlist of 9 Youtube Videos of panel discussions at the Ocean Acidification Symposium 2011, held at the Univ. Washington Center for Urban Horticulture, Seattle, Washington, sponsored by Washington Sea Grant, HERE

»Hermie, the hermit crab:
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