Turning the tides: Santa Monica Bay ocean acidification project

When picturing Santa Monica, what comes to mind first and foremost is the ocean – shops, the ferris wheel, the pier – but mostly the ocean. However, what doesn’t usually come to mind is the toll ocean acidification is taking on the marine life and biodiversity just off our shores. The ocean acts as a carbon sink, absorbing a quarter to a third of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. As humans continue to emit increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, more and more is absorbed into the ocean. Absorbing this carbon dioxide lowers the seawater’s pH and increases the ocean’s acidity. These seemingly slight changes to the chemistry of our oceans threaten to disrupt the delicate balance of ocean life, resulting in habitat destruction and marine life loss. Ocean acidification is a silent, destructive force and eye grabbing headlines about its impacts usually come too late. One of the most tragic examples of this is the death of large sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is largely due to warming temperatures and increasing acidity. Unfortunately though, ocean acidification affects us here at home as well. We hope to gather data to curb acidification before it becomes too late.

For our project, we are partnering with The Bay Foundation and researchers from UC Davis to identify anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide that are impacting Santa Monica Bay. In addition to global emissions, there are many local, man-made sources of carbon dioxide that can dramatically affect the pH, carbonate chemistry, and other oceanographic parameters in Santa Monica Bay. Last year, a UCLA Practicum team worked with the Bay Foundation to assess the potential for kelp forests in the bay to serve as a refuge for marine life from ocean acidification. We plan to further this research and advance the Bay Foundation’s work to identify the magnitude of coastal ocean acidification in the bay.

Our team will first be conducting research to identify areas in the Santa Monica Bay where human activities or natural phenomena may cause local variations in dissolved carbon dioxide levels and pH at the ocean’s surface.. We will then use UCLA’s research Zodiac to collect data on localized oceanographic parameters in these targeted locations. We hope our research will increase awareness of human impact on the bay and susceptibility of marine species inhabiting these waters.

We are the UCLA Undergraduate Research Team for Ocean Acidification in the Santa Monica Bay. Our team is working in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) on our Senior Practicum for Environmental Science. The Practicum Project is designed to give us real world experience working with clients, designing and conducting field research and then finding real-world, applicable solutions to critical environmental problems.

Our project’s success is dependent upon your help! Your support and donations will help fund our fieldwork on UCLA’s research Zodiac boat. We are hoping to conduct at least three full days of research as well as travel to UC Davis’s Bodega Marine Laboratory to process our samples. Ocean Acidification is happening right now and our project is dependent on your support and generosity! Thank you in advance and be on the lookout for updates on the progress of our team and our final results!

More information.

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book