Crumbling Foundations

Crumbling Foundations
For the last few months I’ve been one of the lab instructors for an introductory oceanography course at Oregon State. Despite it all being done through Zoom, I really enjoyed the opportunity to review and learn oceanography with students, and the challenge of adapting lab activities to remote instruction. One of the labs focuses on the concept of ocean acidification. While I’ve heard talks and read articles about the concept before, I hadn’t realized an important fact: it’s not the acidification that matters per se, but rather, it’s the fact that when CO2 dissolves in ocean water, along with lowering the water’s pH, the CO2 molecules interfere with ocean carbonate chemistry. Marine organisms use carbonate ions to build their shells. Extra CO2 molecules react with carbonate to form bicarbonate, reducing the amount of carbonate ion building blocks available for organisms to use.

Going Further
There is an enormous amount of well-put-together material available on ocean acidification, and I encourage you to do some exploration on your own. Some of the articles I found really valuable are listed below.

Oregon State University researchers have been examining the effect of acidification on oysters in the Pacific Northwest. I used an image created by Dr. George Waldbusser that I found in this article for a reference for Panel 11 in the comic.

Article from the Smithsonian Institute’s Ocean: Find Your Blue project:

Overview of the effects of ocean acidification from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory: