WSN Presidential Symposium (Saturday November 7, 9:00-11:30 am)


Blue is the New Green: A Key Role for Oceans in Solutions to Climate Change


Organizer: Dr. Danielle Zacherl


Multiple recent papers and reports emphasize the role of the ocean not just as aggressor (e.g., sea level rise) or victim (e.g., ocean acidification) of climate change, but as a key player in the fight to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. This symposium will shed light on the interesting recent developments in ideas, research, and policy on how to harness the ocean in the fight against climate change.



Dr. Fiorenza Micheli, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University  

Title: Ocean Solutions for Nature and People


The ocean is Earth’s last frontier. It comprises most of its habitable volume, is home to a unique and extraordinary diversity of plants, animals, and microbes; regulates its climate; and provides food and livelihood for billions of people. Our future is inextricably linked to the ocean, and to maintaining the flow of critical and irreplaceable services healthy oceans provide. While much investigation and discussion is focused on impacts, there is a critical need and opportunity to develop solutions based in oceans. I will present and discuss ocean-based solutions to two grand challenges, climate and food and nutritional security, highlighting knowns and unknowns in their potential for deployment at scale, and opportunities for expanding global capacity for ocean solutions.



Dr. Kerry Nickols, California State University Northridge  

Title: Exploring the potential for kelp to locally ameliorate ocean acidification through interdisciplinary science


As oceans become increasingly acidic due to anthropogenic inputs of carbon, policymakers and managers are looking for localized mitigation solutions and adaptation strategies. Submerged aquatic vegetation have the potential to locally ameliorate chemical conditions through uptake of carbon through photosynthesis. Kelp forests, with their high photosynthetic biomass, are one foundation species that might offer this ecosystem service. Extensive measurements in Central and Southern California suggest that this benefit is dependent on the physical context of a site. Interdisciplinary approaches combining physics, biology, and chemistry are required to address these complex issues, as well as consideration of multiple stressors impacting kelp forest ecosystems. While kelp forests in some circumstances may locally ameliorate chemistry, the only way we can stop ocean acidification is to stop emitting carbon.



Dr. Katharyn Boyer, San Francisco State University  

Title: Blue Infrastructure: Advancing Nature-Based Shoreline Protection Solutions

Accelerating sea level rise and increased flooding and storm surge resulting from climate change have fostered a developing interest in shoreline protections solutions that work with nature. These “living shorelines” or “blue infrastructure” projects are alternatives to traditional grey infrastructure that tends to have little wildlife value, creates a sharp boundary to movement of species and flow of materials, prevents upslope shifting of habitats with rising seas, and lacks resiliency found in natural systems. On the western Pacific coast, where hurricanes are not an urgent driver in coastal management, nature-based shoreline protection is a relatively new concept; however, there are many natural analogs that demonstrate its potential. Marine ecologists are increasingly driving the planning and piloting of a wide range of projects that are expanding our definitions of living shorelines. Critical to careful scaling up of these projects — and buy-in from the public and regulatory agencies — is an experimental approach that permits an iterative learning process. Including our students is helping to develop expertise for methodologies grounded in sound science, ultimately building workforce capacity to design, implement, monitor, and inform future projects.


Dr. Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño, University of Washington

 Title: Why sex is important for ocean solutions in a changing climate


Sexual reproduction is a fundamental process necessary for species persistence, evolution, and diversity. However, unprecedented ocean change due to climate and anthropogenic effects can impact physiological processes with important implications for growth and the ability to reproduce. I will discuss effects of temperature and ocean acidification in marine organisms and provide important recommendations for future research to better understand how reproduction will be affected in the context of a rapidly changing environment. Since models often consider the “reproductive parameter” as a “black box” and/or often overestimate it, I am seeking avenues to include reproduction in the design and development of better tools to project future ecological trends in response to global change.


And, a special conversation with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ocean Collectiv and Founder of Urban Ocean Lab & Co-Founder of the All We Can Save Project   

Topic: Ocean Climate Change Policy and Social Justice 

Moderated synchronous Q&A to follow, with all speakers  

We gratefully acknowledge that this symposium was supported in part by California Sea Grant. The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of California Sea Grant.