Student Perspectives: Ocean Intellect on Ocean Acidification

This Post, the first in the Student Perspectives Series, is written by Nick Cochran, A junior, biology major, and president of Ocean Intellect, an ASUPS club. The Student Perspectives Series brings different student group’s projects, goals and perspectives to the Loggers Live Green table, as part of a cross campus sustainability collaboration. 

Current Puget Sound students have began to experience a hand full of sustainability measures available on campus.  Through the Ocean Intellect club, students have been able to become more informed with marine sciences and how we can help the oceans today.  Just a few weeks ago, a PSO trip spearheaded by Ocean Intellect went out to the Washington Coast near Rialto Beach.  Students participated in a beach cleanup sponsored by Surfrider Foundation and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration). Over 200 volunteers joined in for the cause that raised awareness to the ever-rising attack of plastic debris on our beaches. While plastics are a huge concern, the Ocean Intellect community has began to focus more on spreading knowledge about ocean acidification.


Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach

With the increased consumption of resources within our earth ecosystem today, humankind is facing a broad spectrum of ocean deprivation.  Such subjects at hand can be evaluated within a cycle of natural resource consumption on a global scale.  We must begin to recognize that within the environment that covers 70% of our world, we are starting to witness changes that may shift the next 20 years of natural biodiversity.

Rising carbon dioxide levels, coupled with plastic pollution leaching, are leaving ocean health in an anti equilibrium state.  An ecosystem must fluctuate according to tropic succession, where each level of organismic diversity benefits the other along a nutrient gradient.  High concentrations of carbon dioxide are limiting the natural state of primary shelled organisms, which in turn are suffering from the breakdown of carbonate shells.  Alterations of carbonate structure are the result of irregular chemical reactions of carbon dioxide within the aqueous environment.  With a disturbance so significant, trophic succession develops severe displacement.  This process is beginning to offset ocean organism populations worldwide.

Coral reef deprivation is being recorded as another primary concern to biologist.  Coral develop a symbiotic relationship to algal zooxanthellae, which provide coral pigmentation and photosynthetic energy.  Coral can become stressed by increasing pH, which results from carbon dioxide “hot spots”.  The coral then release the symbiotic algae leaving the corals white or “bleached”.  Coral populations then begin to suffer increased fragility, lower growth rates, and more so death.  Research of oceans worldwide has provided evidence that corals may surfer bleaching at higher rates as carbon concentrations begin to increase.  Some propose the idea that we may never be able to return corals to natural levels.  Protection agencies have began to culture coral growth in laboratories in hopes of one day returning species into the wild.  For now, we are in a waiting process of research and environmental policy development.

From Surfrider’s Ocean Ecosystem campaign

As research continues to provide evidence to carbon dioxide pollution, we can begin to bring life back into the oceans with our reduction of primary consumption.  Although such a task may seem lofty, if individuals take the time reduce the amount of carbon and plastic consumption, we can make change.  Joining environmental groups such as Surfrider or Puget Soundkeeper Alliance can help citizen engagement in Washington State.  Our collective efforts can help to preserve the beauty we have here along our coasts and inland territories.  Here at Puget Sound, we can strive to keep sustainable efforts by being green. As a student population we can continue to become educated on such topics that will be a huge concern as we make our way into the future.


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