The ocean provides for us. It provides the air we breathe from photosynthesizing algae, the seafood we buy and sell, and the recreational tourism and educational opportunities which are boundless for business owners and educational networks. How much time do we spend thinking about, or informing others, about what the ocean gives us? Did you know the ocean may one day provide a sustainable form of renewable energy? There is incredible research being conducted and many results already shared in the scientific community about garnering alternative energy sources from the ocean, especially that of using algae as a biofuel.
The horizons of funding, studying, and collaborating about sustainable and renewable energy sources have grown consistently within the last two decades. Researchers from many esteemed universities such as MIT, Kansas State University, UC San Diego, Texas A&M, and Colorado State University, plus many more, are actively seeking solutions to meet the demand of finding these energy sources and establishing sustainable supply chains from extraction to sale.
“New research could help with the large-scale cultivation and manufacturing of oil-rich algae in oceans for biofuel.” (ScienceDaily)
“Photosynthetic marine algae are attractive targets for the production of biofuels and bio-products because they have the ability to capture and fix carbon dioxide using solar energy and they grow in seawater, thereby minimizing fresh water usage.” (ScienceDirect)
What the research referenced above explains is crucial to how we stand up for the protection of ocean health, whether we live on the coastline or not. Amazing amounts of biomass exist in our world’s oceans, just as a forest does. These varieties of biomass are the frontier of renewable energy research and practice. In fact, scientists and educators from our state’s very own Colorado State University are part of a regional alliance called Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR). Focused on researching how forest biomass can serve as feedstock for biofuels, BANR looks at ways beetle-killed tree biomass can contribute to a sustainable regional renewable energy industry.
BANR is funded by the US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Coordinated Agricultural Projects through Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (USDA-NIFA AFRI CAP) grants. Say that 3x fast! These are currently 7 funded grant projects across the US. How proud we can be of CSU leading collaboration of this national and global initiative in our own backyard!
So – what’s the connection between oceans and forests, you may ask? Why bother writing about the two in the same blog post about sustainable energy? I’m glad you asked! If you look back to the first paragraph of this post, I think you can easily replace oceans with forest, and algae with trees, and seafood with timber, and so on. Our seas and our lands are bound intrinsically to humans as a resource – what we do to explore, learn from, and sustain them is up to us.
If you are an interested in attending a conference this May in Seattle about Biofuels and Energy Literacy, please see more at: NARA Conference, SeaTac, May 3-4,2016
More information about the excellent projects and organizations referenced in this post can be found at the following:
Sarah Burgess is currently working as a Research Naturalist for University Wisconsin-Extension, and looks forward to transitioning back to the Rockies later this summer. Her thoughts and musings can be followed at BurgessAdventures.
Local youth and river/ocean lover, Grace, recently interviewed the Colorado Ocean Coalition’s founder, Vicki Nichols Goldstein, to discuss her organization and the reasons why an inland community can affect the health of our oceans.
Colorado – The Inland Ocean
By: Grace C.
An ocean in Colorado? Well, we are all downstream. In Colorado, we have a special responsibility when it comes to protecting water quality. That’s because we’re a “headwater state,” which means that the snowfall in our mountains is a major source of water for eighteen states and parts of Mexico. (Colorado the Headwater State) I had the chance to go to the Making WAVES conference and learn about what the Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO) is doing to help not only our water, but the water that flows to other states and eventually the ocean. In fact, Colorado is so important that Rep. Mark Stone from California named Boulder a ‘California Inland Ocean Community.’ Vicki Goldstein from COCO says that, “The health of the ocean is connected to the health of our rivers and waterways. By being good stewards of the water that we have we make the ocean and the planet better places too.” The truth is, no matter where you live your day to day activities end up having an effect on not only your local water supply, but the waters downstream and eventually the ocean.
At the conference I had the privilege to listen to people who love the ocean give lectures about how we can help it. I learned a few things I didn’t know before, like what really happens to plastic in the ocean, how to make trash into art, how to reduce plastic pollution and how I can help the ocean. One amazing opportunity that I had at the conference was to hear and meet Mr. Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the legendary Jacques Cousteau. Mr. Cousteau talked about his Mission 31 and his organization called Plant a Fish which strives to help people protect and marvel at the world around them. His lecture was all about protecting the ocean, “planting marine life and plants in ecologically stressed areas and educating local communities about the ocean.” (Cousteau) I also heard Stephanie from Green Apple Supply talk about plastics in the ocean. Plastic, once thought to take thousands of years to break down, actually breaks down quite fast in the warm ocean water, but it doesn’t go away completely. Instead it turns into tiny bits of plastic that fish eat and then they die, sea birds also eat the plastic as well as larger marine fish and mammals. The plastic can get so bad that it disrupts algae and plankton growth and that makes the whole food web go out of balance. But, plastic is not the only culprit that makes it to the ocean from our water supply. A lot of chemicals and microbeads make their way into our local watershed. Chemicals from pills we take and things we put into our lawns get flushed into the system. Microbeads, which are found in bath and beauty products, also get flushed or washed into the system. The sewage treatment plants are not equipped to take out all of these chemicals and plastic pollution and it ends up getting washed downstream to the next community. If you think that a few pills and microbeads here and there don’t add up, Mrs. Goldstein from COCO has this to say, “The water quality gets worse as it flows downstream. 5,000 square miles at Gulf of Mexico is a dead zone, that is the end of our watershed. This means that nothing lives there, the plastic, fumes and chemicals from upstream make this area a place where nothing grows.“
Recently I interviewed Mrs. Goldstein from COCO, here’s what she had to say about COCO, the ocean and our water supply. What is COCO? COCO is the Colorado Ocean Coalition and is a project of the Ocean Foundation, a non-profit organization. She started COCO because she, “discovered that there was no other ocean oriented organization in the middle of our county that connects our rivers and actions to the health of our planet.” She realized that everyone needs to be involved in the health of the ocean, not just people who live near it. This is especially true since “80% of all of the plastics and trash that end up in the ocean come from inland communities like ours.” When I asked her about things that people in Colorado could do to help the ocean, she said, “We need to reduce our plastic consumption and discontinue using products that contain microbeads.” Our sewage facilities are not equipped to handle the amounts of trash, chemicals and microbeads that we are putting into the system. This pollution gets washed downstream to the next community and so on until it reaches the ocean. As far as how well we are doing in cleaning our water before it goes downstream, Mrs. Goldstein says, “Boulder has done a lot of effort in pioneering extracting things from the water system, but other communities are behind in this area.”
I came away from the conference with some ideas about starting plastic bag recycling on my street and looking into using bags to make plan. I made a video about things you can do to help the ocean, I had the chance to raise money for Save The Whales and to volunteer with Riverwatch. I got to talk to scientists, artists, lawmakers and people who love the ocean. From my interview I gained valuable information about how to inform people about their local watershed and what we are doing right, and wrong, to our water supply. What I realized is that knowledge is power. People are ignorant about their local watersheds, they don’t realize the impact that their daily lives have on those who are downstream and ultimately the ocean and our planet. By letting people know about plastic pollution, chemical pollution and getting lawmakers involved we can make changes about what goes into our water supply. Our actions can not only affect our local rivers, streams and lakes, but every community that receives our water. No matter where you live, your choices have an impact on the health of the ocean. Eventually all water leads to the ocean and the ocean is life, so let’s keep it clean and healthy.
“Colorado Ocean Coalition.” Colorado Ocean Coalition. Web. 1 Mar. 2016. <http://coloradoocean.org
“Colorado The Headwater State.” Growing Your Future. Colorado Foundation for Agriculture. Web. 1 Mar. 2016. <https://www.growingyourfuture.com/civi/sites/default/files/ColoradoHeadwaters_State.pdf>.
Cousteau, Fabien. “Plant a Fish.” Fabien Cousteau. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
Notes from Making WAVES conference 2013
Phone interview with Vicki Goldstein from Colorado Ocean Coalition on March 2, 2016
All photos used with permission from Liese Carberry
The National Ocean Policy is here...but will it stay?
This past week, two of the Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO) Ocean Ambassador (OA) Candidate’s, Danielle Duncan and Kara Wiggin attended the Healthy Oceans Coalition’s National Ocean Policy Advocacy Training in Savannah, GA. They learned how to be advocates of the National Ocean Policy to their local representatives and the public.
The other trainees included members from the Sierra Club, the Conservation Law Foundation, Island Institute, Ocean Conservation Research, Surfrider, and others. COCO's OA Candidates were invited to attend on behalf of COCO. Kara and Danielle were the only two inland representatives that participated! With this upcoming election year, the National Ocean Policy (NOP) may be at risk.
Since the NOP was passed as an Executive Order by President Obama, a new 2016 president has the power to overturn it. But, the NOP's plan is strong and has the potential to be enforced within the states, with or without the executive order.
In July 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing an integrated National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts and the Great Lakes, know as the National Ocean Policy (NOP). The NOP provides a framework to better coordinate and integrate the 140 laws and 20+ agencies that currently manage our ocean and its invaluable resources. The NOP creates collaborative opportunities for federal and state agencies to work together, uses science-based decision-making, and allows stakeholders a voice. The NOP is good for the environment AND good for the economy. The NOP creates a set of nine priority objectives and management actions:
- Ecosystem-Based Management: Adopt ecosystem-based management as a foundational principle for comprehensive management of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.
- Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning: Implement comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem based coastal and marine spatial planning and management in the United States.
- Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding: Increase knowledge to continually inform and improve management and policy decisions and the capacity to respond to change and challenges. Better educate the public through formal and informal programs about the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.
- Coordinate and Support: Better coordinate and support Federal, State, tribal, local, and regional management of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. Improve coordination and integration across the Federal Government and, as appropriate, engage with the international community.
- Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification: Strengthen resiliency of coastal communities and marine and Great Lakes environments and their abilities to adapt to climate change impacts and ocean acidification.
- Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: Establish and implement an integrated ecosystem protection and restoration strategy that is science-based and aligns conservation and restoration goals at the Federal, state, tribal, local and regional levels.
- Water Quality and Sustainable Practices on Land: Enhance water quality in the ocean, along our coasts, and in the Great Lakes by promoting and implementing sustainable practices on land.
- Changing Conditions in the Arctic: Address environmental stewardship needs in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent coastal areas in the face of climate-induced and other environmental changes.
- Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Observations, Mapping, and Infrastructure: Strengthen and integrate Federal and non-Federal ocean observing systems, sensors, data collection platforms, data management, and mapping capabilities into a national system, and integrate that system into international observation efforts.
Offshore Drilling is the Fracking of the Sea:
Let’s be ready to Vote the Coast!
Super Tuesday is just a few days away. Join the Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO) and the Sea Party Coalition to oppose offshore oil drilling. This election year is pivotal to the health of our ocean planet. Our next president can protect our ocean, or open up the east coast and the Arctic to offshore drilling. Check out Where the Candidates Stand on Offshore Oil and be ready to vote for clean renewable energy. Support candidates who oppose dirty, dangerous fossil-fuels obtained from offshore oil drilling and development.
Offshore oil drilling contributes to climate change, threatens marine life, and can harm our nation’s coastal economy and way of life. The Colorado SCUBA diving community, the largest consortium of inland U.S. divers, sees first hand the destruction that offshore oil drilling has on their favorite diving spots. Leaks, blowouts, and catastrophic spills harm fragile ocean ecosystems. That’s why so many towns and cities along the coast have passed resolutions opposing offshore drilling.
COCO unites people to protect oceans from a mile high. With our watershed to the sea connection, the ocean is closer than you think. Between climate change, ocean acidification, air pollution and interrelated environmental problems, we all have a responsibility to raise our voices against actions that harm our natural environment. Please, vote the coast.
Sitting on a 211-foot ship just off the coast of California this summer, I went down to the studio, put on my headset, and with the help of a stellar production team in Rhode Island, starting talking to teachers at a summer development workshop in Colorado. As live ocean exploration and the power of videoconferencing united us, we discussed how engaging classrooms to science in another realm can have a lasting effect on their students.
This past year I was a Science Communication Fellow with the Ocean Exploration Trust for the year, delivering outreach about ocean exploration and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to audiences around the world. Part of my audience was the 4th and 5th classes in Ft. Collins, CO at Lopez Elementary – A Leader In Me school. Twice during the school year in 2015 I was able to connect with students at this school to talk about the excitement of deep sea exploration, experiment with scientific concepts like pressure and density during hands-on labs, and encourage them to follow along with live undersea exploration during the 6-month long expedition season of E/V Nautilus in 2015. I was thrilled to connect students from Colorado with the excitement of ocean exploration and I know more students are out there in the state ready to apply for the experience of a lifetime.
As part of my fellowship I sailed on board Dr. Robert Ballard’s Exploration Vessel Nautilus for three weeks in August off the coast of California. This ship has spent 3-6 months each year since 2008 sailing the world’s oceans, exploring and sharing live exploration with a global audience through www.nautiluslive.org.
“The Ocean Exploration Trust was founded in 2008 by Dr. Robert Ballard to engage in pure ocean exploration. Our international programs center on scientific exploration of the seafloor and many of our expeditions are launched from aboard Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, a 64-meter research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust. In addition to conducting scientific research, we offer our expeditions to explorers on shore via live video, audio, and data feeds from the field. We also bring educators and students of all ages aboard during E/V Nautilusexpeditions, offering them hands-on experience in ocean exploration, research, and communications.” – from OET Website
The excitement of pure ocean exploration by E/V Nautilus is brought in real-time to your fingertips through a live, streaming feed on the website Nautilus Live. When the expedition is underway questions and answers are addressed from a live chat box and over the air by a Science Communication Fellow and the rest of the team in the control room. From now until the next expedition begins there are highlight reels and footage from 2015 and previous years available at the site.
Take a spin around the site – you’ll see highlights from previous years of exploration across the Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and beginning in May of 2015, the Pacific Ocean for the very first time.
- Watch a timelapse of the historic transit of E/V Nautilus through the locks of the Panama Canal. Marvel at black smokers and incredible lifeforms living in extreme environments.
- Click on interviews with the Corps of Exploration – a diverse and talented group of over 120 scientists, engineers, videographers, high school students, college interns, and ship crew members who join Nautilus on its exploration of the known and unknown.
- See more events and get notified for updates about the 2016 season on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Videos galore await you at YouTube.
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – how can YOU join the Corps of Exploration? Each season the E/V Nautilus sails, a new group (and several lucky returnees) is chosen to become part of the Corps of Exploration. Applications are open now to students of all ages, from high school to recent graduates, to join the exploration in 2016. Find the application details and requirements here – 2016 Opportunities with Ocean Exploration Trust (deadlines are Jan. 18, 2016 for internships and Feb. 1, 2016 for high school honors program).
I am grateful to the students in Ft. Collins for joining the adventure with me and I know there are many more out there who want to bring the ocean to the mountains, so submit your application today!
Written by Sarah Burgess. Sarah had the Nautilus adventure in 2015 and looks forward to many more by land and by sea. Read more at BurgessAdventures
It’s the last week before Christmas – one of many holidays celebrated by people on Earth this time of year. There’s also Hanukkah, Kwanza, and 11 other multicultural celebrations in the month of December alone. With these holidays, many traditions are observed and practiced between family, friends and communities. Today, I’d like to focus on a few parts of a well-known tradition of gift-giving, and wrapping said gifts.
Who doesn’t love to open a gift? And, doesn’t it add that much more giddiness when the gift is disguised by wrapping, a box, or a bag? Unless you’re a toddler, you’re probably going to find much more joy in the gift under all the disguise.
But, what about all that wrapping paper and ribbon – is it necessary to exhibit what our gift is about? Does the type or color or design of paper really add to the experience for the person we’re gifting? Maybe…but I lean towards no.
Could we challenge ourselves to find alternative, reusable wrapping and remove yet another single-use material from our lives? Can we make small changes that stack up to big change for our Planet, our environment, our Ocean? YES and YES.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste can increase by as much as 25%. Food scraps, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all add up to 1 million tons per week to a landfill (EPA). Many of you are aware of what garbage looks like before, during, and after it goes to the landfill. Think overstuffed bins ready for curbside pickup with a wind gust blowing litter away and eventually into a storm drain which leads to the ocean.
About 38,000 miles of ribbon is used each year, and likely thrown out after a single-use. If this was saved, it would be enough ribbon to tie a bow around the Earth (CalRecycle)!
The amount of waste we can avoid by making small changes is amazing to think about and act on. Below is a smorgasbord of ideas – pick one, pick many – you can try this holiday season, then work on making the idea a habit year-round. Isn’t generating less waste the least we can give back to the Planet this season and every season?
- Look for alternative types of “wrapping” around your house – newspaper, magazines, brown paper bags, saved packaging from mail-order products, reusable bags, and baskets are all great ways to give a gift with an extra use on the side.
- If you buy wrapping paper, please seek responsibly made material, such as paper from a sustainably managed forest, 100% recycled paper, or thicker/heavier gift wrap that is molded easily to be flattened and used again in the future. Cloth wrapping paper is also a great alternative! Don’t forget to recycle unwanted/unusable paper afterwards.
- Invest in and collect gift bags and responsibly made, durable gift wrap ribbon. Then, make sure your family, friends, and guests know they can leave it with you if they don’t choose to save and use again for themselves.
- Avoid using ribbon all together – get creative with a simple sprig of evergreen or berries, or snatch up a pinecone to use in your design.
- As always, use your reusable shopping bags when you’re out and about looking for those special gifts. Many stores give you a small discount for providing your own bag, and depending where you live, this may already be a mandatory practice. Every time you refuse a single-use plastic bag at the store, you’re contributing one less that could eventually end up HERE.
Be kind to your wallets by reusing.
Be kind to each other by taking action.
Be kind to our Oceans on Planet Earth by changing your habits.
Written by Sarah Burgess. Sarah fervently supports many ideas to conserve our Planet and take care of the Oceans – the best way to do this is by adventuring. Read more at BurgessAdventures
As most have heard on the news lately, there was an immense incident with the EPA and acid mine drainage into the Animas River from Hold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. There has been confirmation that the mine drainage has reached Utah and is headed for Lake Powell, which is sourced by the Colorado River. This is a significant environmental issue for a variety of reasons, and we know this because acid mine drainage has been studied by numerous scientists, and its affect on aquatic ecosystems have been documented.
Acid mine drainage is a created by a high concentration of waste due to mines that contain dissolved metals reacting with atmospheric oxygen, which was studied by Blowes and his team in 2003. When metals react with oxygen, ferric acid is produced. This chemical creates acidic drainage, which then leaks into pristine streams surrounding the mine and impacts macroinvertebrates. Many organisms are known to be delicate to a change in pH, which can result in mortality if there is a sufficient change. Depending on the concentration, mine drainage does not always create a defined change in pH
Numerous studies in Colorado have shown that macroinvertebrate densities and vegetation decrease significantly in streams below a mine site as compared to streams above a mine site.
The problem with the Gold King Mine’s discharge is that is a concentrated toxic body of water that was released at a very high rate. The acidic waste will likely kill macroinverebrates as well as larger organisms including fish. Communities living within the region are at risk – they can’t bathe or recreate in the waters and can’t drink the water
The discharge rate is at such a high number as compared to studies done in other locations in Colorado, that what may be the result is scary. Therefore, not only will macroinvertebrates be affected, but also so will larger organisms, such as fish. Not only does it affect the organisms within the stream, but it also affects surrounding communities as it is toxic to drink, bathe in, or recreate in. this can cause commercial declines in cities and towns that base their economy off tourism. It would also increase spending, as they have to import quality water for domestic use.
On a global scale, it also affects the ocean! All rivers drain into the ocean- but can the mine drainage subside by the time it reaches the ocean?
A recap of my first week at the mountain research station includes the following:
- Endless bottles of lake water, containing a variety of zooplankton and phytoplankton
- Awareness of what I deposit into surrounding areas (trash, etc.)
- A heightened sense of adventure
- A conquered hike to Rollins/ Corona Pass and the Needle Eye Tunnel (which if you haven’t read about- you should)
- A continuous love for the ocean- as well as lakes and streams
- An increase in motivation to combine freshwater and marine science studies in graduate school
With that said, I have decided to show through pictures rather than text, the effects of alpine watersheds on the ocean, and why it is important to keep them clean!
Location: Niwot Ridge
For the next few weeks, I am able to have the opportunity to stay in the outskirts of Nederland, Colorado for a 3-week class on lake and stream ecology. How fitting it would be, I thought, to connect experiences from this class to oceanic issues.
Within the first few hours of class we are welcomed by our professor, and continue into lecture for the first hour. Next stop: Niwot Ridge, elevation 3520 meters. An approximate 10 minute off-roading adventure, followed by a 25-30 minute steep, rocky hike, and we have arrived! While eating lunch and admiring the tree-less slopes of the mountains, we discuss groundwater and precipitation. Groundwater moves approximately a foot per day, but can move faster in more geological areas- such as high alpine environments. As it moves downhill toward the lake and stream systems, the water collects nutrients and minerals that it runs over. Therefore, by the time the groundwater gets to the oceanic waterways, it could have collected thousands of feet worth of particles, whether it is nutrients or pollutants. Even these high alpine areas have pollutants, through precipitation. For example, sodium chloride would not be abundant in mountain regions, although there are trace amounts of it found. Why would sodium chloride be present here? Well, precipitation in these areas comes from evaporation from the ocean, hence oceanic nutrients are cycled to the mountains, and vice versa. This enhances the importance of maintaining healthy oceanic and alpine ecosystems! Another nutrient that was found to be in these high elevations was ammonia. This was due to food plots, in which food for a desired animal is plotted on land in order for it to be easier to hunt. It is the same concept as planting crops in association with fertilizer runoff. There are many issues with runoff, mostly concluding that it will lead to eutrophication.
Location: Left Hand Reservoir