Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oceanography on the Dock

This is the 2nd year of Oceanography on the dock (O-dock) at Port Townsend Marine Science Center.   This year the focus of O-dock is on ocean acidification (OA).  OA is the result of burning fossil fuels, which releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. About one third of this CO2 dissolves into the world’s oceans. When CO2 dissolves into the water it forms carbonic acid.  The reaction of carbonic acid with water makes certain metabolic pathways for organism’s difficult, in particular calcifying organism.
This year PTMSC has a goal to educate and engage the public in conversation about OA.  I  was on the team that helped to develop the programming for this topic.   We wanted to design a place based program with a set of interactives that are very hands on, visual and simple and most of all empowering. This was a little challenging at times, because ocean acidification is not exactly a simple issue and the topic is not bright and cheery.  After a lot of thinking out of the box and tinkering with simple chemistry topics we came up with a program. We tried out the program once with PTMSC volunteers and then were able to give it a try with a high school group that was visiting.  We started out the program giving a brief overview of climate change and then asked if anyone in the group has heard about OA. No one had heard of OA!   This was huge surprise to me.  Not one kid from a high school group from Seattle had heard of an issue that has changed and will continue to change the marine waters in their backyard.
We went through the series of interactive.
1) Testing the pH of household liquids.
2) Looking at how our own breath changes the pH of water


3) Looking how a shell is effected by a higher acidify


 At the end of the program I felt excited that students walked away with new knowledge and enthusiasm for ocean health and thinking about how they could minimize their impact on the planet.  Although OA is not a bright and cheery topic, I feel proud to be a part of an effort to educate the community on this issue, which no doubt will have and has had a huge impact on the way of life in Washington State and the world at large.  Although this is was a tiny little step in the very big scheme of addressing the challenges that OA will bring, it is a tiny step in the right direction.  
Thanks for reading,
Annie (AmeriCorps Volunteer)



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