Chimacum students study ocean acidification, effects

Chimacum High School students this spring studied the impact of ocean acidification on the local shellfish industry through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant awarded to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Ocean acidification is a global problem that has concrete impacts in the Pacific Northwest and Jefferson County. Over a three-month period this spring, 42 advanced placement environmental science students at Chimacum High School engaged in a series of 13 sessions to explore and study ocean acidification, culminating in a student summit to share what they had learned with their peers and the community.

The course included lessons to build understanding of ocean acidification and its impacts, lab experiments to explore carbon dioxide and its relationship to pH, trips to working science labs to learn about ocean acidification investigations in progress, citizen science surveys to observe possible environmental changes due to climate change, and student-designed inquiry investigations related to ocean acidification.

By using a variety of local resources for field trips and speakers, the program helped students understand the impacts of ocean acidification on local businesses and how researchers are working to deal with these impacts, according to a press release.

Pippa Kohn of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife introduced new research that can be adapted to citizen science projects to track the effects of ocean acidification on local marine life.

A field trip to Taylor Shellfish’s Quilcene hatchery introduced students to methods used to grow oysters and geoducks, and ways in which Taylor is adapting to increasing acidification of local waters. The field trip to the NOAA Fisheries’ Mukilteo Research Station introduced students to current research on the effects of ocean acidification on Dungeness crab larvae and included a session on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

The final field trip to Port Townsend Marine Science Center included a lesson on plankton, beach investigations and citizen science surveys.

By studying ocean acidification through hands-on experiences, inquiry-based learning and reflection, high school students can better understand this complex issue, be more prepared to participate in making decisions about it, and be more likely to pursue careers in STEM subjects.

The Ocean Acidification Studies through Systems and Inquiry Science (OASSIS) Project is funded by a grant awarded to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Marine Science Center staff adapted existing curricula to include field experiences, citizen science and inquiry-based lab experiences., 29 June 2016. Article.

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