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Lake Stevens students study ocean acidification at the high school


Students in Kirstin Olson’s AP Environmental Science class at Lake Stevens High School recently studied ocean acidification, a critical current and future environmental problem.

ocean acidification is a decrease in the pH of ocean water caused primarily by the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere by the world’s oceans and by pollutants in stormwater runoff. As the pH of the water decreases its acidity increases reducing the availability of calcium carbonate required by some marine organisms. This is a growing environmental concern worldwide.

Students simulated ocean acidification by capturing carbon dioxide from yeast, and recording its effect on the pH of saltwater as the carbon dioxide concentration increased. In Puget Sound, ocean acidification was the cause of billions of oyster larvae dying at Washington’s shellfish hatcheries between 2005 and 2009. In addition to shellfish, ocean acidification‘s negative effects are felt by animals throughout the ocean’s food chain including salmon, whales, herring, sea birds, sea lions, and seals.

Students learned that in 2009 the academies of science from 70 nations have agreed that changes caused by ocean acidification are irreversible for many thousands of years, and the biological consequences could last much longer. They also learned that the solutions – encompassing everything from burning less fossil fuel to reducing the amount of lawn fertilizer – require the actions of individuals, industries and governments.

The ocean acidification class is free to Snohomish County high schools and is taught by staff from the Snohomish Conservation District. The District is one of the first organizations in the state to offer an ocean acidification class to High School students. The class is based on a similar class from the University of Hawaii’s Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE). To learn more, contact Roger Kelley at [email protected].

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