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.


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:

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.

Reef-Safe Sunscreen: The Craze for the Rays

Posted Posted in TopStory


Reef-Safe Sunscreen: The Craze for the Rays  


It is a known fact around the world that sunscreen is used to protect your skin from harsh UV rays that can cause skin cancer. There is an immense variety of sunscreens that you can choose from varying on activity level, SPFs, etc. However, how many sunscreens are out there that are environmentally friendly? What researchers have found is that the chemicals in sunscreen are having a direct effect on the health of coral reefs through a process that happens when specific ingredients are released into the water. The two main components of sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which never biodegrade. Mineral oil and petroleum, are also found in some sunscreen, which slowly dilutes into solutions. However, there are solutions to this. For example, a mineral-based sunscreen.


To look more into this product and to purchase your own bottle of environmentally-friendly, reef-safe sunscreen for your next tropical vacation, go here, and a portion of your proceeds will go to Colorado Ocean Coalition.

An inactivate virus living within the environment of corals and their symbiotic algae becomes activated in the presence of chemicals found in sunscreens. This virus causes a rather bad outcome, as do most viruses, resulting in either the release or the destruction of the algae living within the coral, therefore destroying the coral’s only source of nutrients and food.


Without the mutual symbiosis with the algae, the corals turn white, also known as coral bleaching, as a result of the nutrient-rich corals starving. Although, it isn’t the zinc oxide and titanium oxide that is causing this to happen, it is the chemicals added into a mixture that disrupt the corals. The ingredients that do cause this to happen include: oxynenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidine camphor, and cinnamate. With that said, not only are the reefs themselves being effected, but so is the surrounding water with other ingredients that are being diluted into oceanic waters.


So how can we, as ocean loving and adventurous people be able to continue to explore the vast diversity of the ocean without simultaneously killing it off? Well, researchers have found the main ingredients in the most popular sunscreens that can activate this virus, and others have created sunscreens lacking these chemicals. Rather than absorbing the sun’s rays like chemical-based sunscreen does, a mineral-based sunscreen reflects the sun’s rays. Also, mineral sunscreen has been found to be better for those with sensitive skin, as it is less irritating. So, not only are you getting a sunscreen that is great for sensitive skin, it is just as protective as other sunscreen, and it serves as a relief to the beautiful corals and rainbow fish that you long to see.


Recently, there have been many companies that have started creating mineral-based sunscreen, and quite successfully too. A company called Beautycounter (which you can check out here), specializes in creating beauty products free of toxic substances. Their mission is to create products with safe components, due to the increase in health issues occurring from toxic chemicals put into everyday necessities. According to their research, the US has only banned 11 ingredients used in personal care products, while the European Union has banned over 1,300 ingredients. Beautycounter has successfully banned more than 1,500 ingredients, as stated on their “our mission” portion of their website, which you can view here. Their company has truly been an inspiration to our society today. With that said, they have created a sun-shying, coral reef-sighing sunscreen that lacks the unsafe ingredients that the most popular sunscreen brands use! AND they use a non-nano zinc oxide as the sun protector, which simply means a tiny version of zinc oxide that will not enter the bloodstream as a nano zinc oxide would. Every single ingredient, I mean every, is listed on their website when you select this sunscreen, as well as any of their other products. With constant and accurate testing, researchers for Beautycounter are able to determine which ingredients fit within their extremely strict guidelines and are allowed to be used in their products. Just looking at the ingredients list for the Protect All Over, I see that none of the coral damaging ingredients are listed, and are otherwise substituted by Citrus Limon Oil and Mimosa Tenuiflora Bark Extract- both of which sound much more natural to me.

To look more into this product and to purchase your own bottle of environmentally-friendly, reef-safe sunscreen for your next tropical vacation, go here, and a portion of your proceeds will go to Colorado Ocean Coalition.




Letter To The Editor – Largest Ever Ocean Conservation Lobby Day

Posted Posted in TopStory

Dear Editor,

 Last week, an Inland Delegation of businesspeople, divers, one-time coastal residents and others who believe that every state is connected to the sea went to Washington, DC to attend aBlue Vision Summit and the largest ever ocean conservation lobby day.   Along with fellow citizens from 23 other states 20 Coloradans met with our congressional delegation to oppose new off-shore oil surveys and drilling.  A week later we’re seeing the beaches of Santa Barbara California fouled with spilled oil just as the Gulf of Mexico was 5 years ago by BP’s deadly Deepwater Horizon blowout.

The federal government is currently considering opening up the East Coast to new offshore drilling for the first time ever, as well as planning to authorize new drilling in the rough frontier waters of the U.S. Arctic Ocean.

The spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, with its images of dying oil covered sea birds reminds us of a much bigger spill that took place there in 1969 and that helped launch the modern environmental movement. Even though Colorado is a thousand miles from any coast, we have a vested interest in the health of our ocean that provides us with half the oxygen we breath, the weather and rain that feeds our crops and the occasional ocean escapes that can feed our soul.  Coal and oil were important energy sources of past centuries.  In the 21st century we ought to be able to generate clean energy without putting our coastlines, ocean, climate and economy at risk.


Vicki Nichols Goldstein

Founder & Director, Colorado Ocean Coalition

Read More At Daily Camera




Ocean Ambassador aims to “Make Waves” with Jewelry

Posted Posted in Ocean Ambassadors

The Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO)  is fortunate to have many talented and creative Ocean Ambassadors (OA) working on OA projects that support and generate awareness for COCO. One of these Ambassadors is the feature of this week’s blog, Jesse Berggren. Jesse works at Swoon Jewelry Studios, where she makes jewelry. For her OA project, she is creating beautiful pieces that will benefit COCO.

The goal of the Make Waves Collection is to fundraise for COCO by selling as many as possible, with 20% of the sales being donated directly to COCO. Additionally, Jesse hopes the pieces will raise ocean awareness by being a conversation starter. To that end, she is including a little informational card that will go with each piece that states COCO’s mission.


Bringing the Beach to Colorado…

Posted Posted in Ocean Ambassadors

You might be wondering why there is an “Ocean Coalition” in Colorado, and furthermore why they are spouting out newly trained “Ocean Ambassadors” armed with the knowledge and skills to go out into the community to address “ocean issues.” I know that sea level rise is problem, but Colorado isn’t exactly ocean-front property yet…


Introducing the Colorado Ocean Coaltion

Posted Posted in TopStory

The Colorado Ocean Coalition…what? That doesn’t make sense. Did the Colorado River become the sixth ocean?

Don’t worry you haven’t missed anything, the Colorado River is still a river. And while hearing the name Colorado Ocean Coalition for the first time might throw you for loop, the reality is an inland based ocean organization makes perfect sense.

Living along the coast isn’t a requirement for caring about our oceans. In fact, it doesn’t matter where you live; we are all impacting the health of our oceans. Thanks to modern technology and a global economy, a fish caught off the coast of South America can end up on a dinner plate in Colorado. But should you be eating that fish?

Well…that depends. Is the fishery sustainable? Did the fishing method destroy other ocean habitats? Does that fish contain a heavy dose of mercury? Aren’t these things you would like to know before digging in? And you certainly can’t ask a baked fish those questions.

The Colorado Ocean Coalition is filling an inland ocean void by raising awareness of ocean issues and getting more people to start asking questions. This is very exciting because the more people ask questions the more they begin to make conscious consumer choices and the more power we all have to affect change.

Now with an ocean coalition in place, Colorado and other inland states can work with coastal states to develop healthy ocean policies and legislation inland. Hawaii passed a statewide ban on plastic bags this summer that becomes effective July 1, 2015. Wouldn’t it be great if an inland state did the same?

The possibilities are endless and every move in the right direction helps our oceans. Executive Director Vicki Nichols Goldstein sums it up best with her favorite question, “Do you really need to see the ocean to save it?” Definitely not! So join the Colorado Ocean Coalition on their quest to save our oceans and check out their website to start learning more about hot ocean topics. Because whether you live a mile high or at sea level you can be part of the solution.

Colorado Ocean Coalition’s 2nd Annual Event, Making WAVES is coming up on October 20th and 21st! Held in Boulder, this multifaceted symposium and celebration highlights ocean issues, solutions and is a change making event for engagement and national action. Making Waves provides the general public access to and opportunities to interact with cutting edge researchers, well known speakers, award winning film makers and advocates creating an upwelling of supporters and inland ocean activists. Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau, will be the keynote speaker for the weekend.

Click here for 2012 Making Waves symposium information.

Click here for REGISTRATION and TICKETS to Making WAVES 2012.

Pre-registration for the Ocean Symposium is free, but required. Also, don’t forget to order a box lunch from The Purple Bus !

Carolyn Kraft is a freelance writer, content developer and social media manager for Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and whale watch naturalist. She blogs at

Image Credit: Claudio Garzon