Biomass by sea and by land

Posted Posted in TopStory, Uncategorized

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.

seaweed-1129226_960_720

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.

wood-825792__180

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:

Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies 

USDA-NIFA AFRI CAP grant programs

 

 

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.

A New Way to Save Coral Reefs

Posted Posted in Remi's Blog

Scientists believe that they found a way to help preserve coral reefs that are endangered by acidifying oceans. Their solution is simple: bubbles. They think that blowing bubbles on coral reefs will help with the chemicals in the ocean. Oxygen bubbling has been used in lakes to break up thermal stratification, but it has never been used on an ocean before. 

coralreef

Exploding Whales?

Posted Posted in Remi's Blog

In the small town of Trout River, Newfoundland, experts are trying to find a way to dispose of a dead beached blue whale. The whale weighs 380,000 pounds. If the gas builds up, the whale will explode. So far, the experts say that the gas is naturally deflating. However no one knows if the whale will blow.exploding-whale-newfoundland-01

 

Read More 

Bring Live Ocean Exploration to the Mountains!

Posted Posted in Got Ocean?, TopStory

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

Gift to the Planet

Posted Posted in Got Ocean?, TopStory

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)!

Ribbon around the Earth
Credit: EasyExpat Blog

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

The Drainage Network

Posted Posted in TopStory

441472200_6fa8a13c87_o1

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

635747980876464066-AP-APTOPIX-Mine-Waste-Leak

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?

brushy creek

Follow the Waterways

Posted Posted in TopStory, Watersheds

IMG_7860

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!

 

Start:

IMG_7906    

IMG_7914

 

IMG_7858

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

imgC

 

images

 

 

Rakaia_River_Mouth

Finish!

Protecting the Oceans from Two Miles High

Posted Posted in TopStory

IMG_7801

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.

 

IMG_7839

 

Location: Left Hand Reservoir