To date there have been more than 1,400 Our Ocean commitments across 6 themes submitted by almost 350 organizations across all sectors – governments, businesses, academic institutions, and civil society. Over 500 commitments have been self-reported as 100% complete and almost 500 self-report some form of progress. In this Our Ocean Palau blog series, we highlight Our Ocean commitments and their positive impact.
The Ocean Foundation: pH monitoring – the acid test
Throughout the pandemic, Alexis Valauri-Orton, Program Officer at The Ocean Foundation, has found her phone aglow with messages from scientists around the world. A researcher in Colombia needed help interpreting pH data from a sensor. A partner in Mozambique shared photos from a recent sample collection trip. These messages, through Facebook, WhatsApp, and e-mail, allowed Alexis to feel connected to the many scientists she works with leading The Ocean Foundation’s International Ocean Acidification Initiative. Together, they make up a community of scientists, policymakers, and community members dedicated to understanding and responding to rapid changes in the chemistry of our ocean.
The lowering of the ocean’s pH, driven by the increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, is one of climate change’s most serious impacts. While the long-term global goal must be to mitigate the CO2 emissions causing the acidification in the first place, the immediate priority is to learn more about what’s going on right now, and to act and adapt as effectively as possible in response.
At Our Ocean in 2017, The Ocean Foundation made a commitment to invest $1.25 million to build the capacity of developing nations to monitor, understand and respond to the issue of ocean acidification. This included the development of monitoring kits; the training of scientists in monitoring techniques; a researcher mentorship scheme; and support for policymakers at a national and international level.
The Our Ocean commitment led to a permanent, national monitoring programme, as well as the securing of multiple grants to expand their work. Crucially, combining kits with training yielded exponential returns on investment. Mauritius, for example, went from having no monitoring on ocean acidification, to leading the training in the Western Indian Ocean for scientists new to ocean acidification.
Mark J. Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation, is equally enthusiastic – and he credits Our Ocean for playing its part. “We feel strongly that it was the Our Ocean Conference series that first gave sufficiently serious attention to ocean acidification in a forum for many governments to really take notice”.
- The Ocean Foundation’s International Ocean Acidification Initiative continues to serve as a resource for scientists, policymakers, and community members working to understand and respond to ocean acidification.
- Since 2019, The Ocean Foundation has developed new, low-cost monitoring equipment to make ocean acidification research and adaptation more accessible, held virtual training programs on ocean acidification science as well as how to bridge the science/policy gap, and has launched new regional programs in the Pacific Islands and the Gulf of Guinea. During Covid, The Ocean Foundation pivoted to offering virtual training and has trained more than 200 scientists and policymakers since 2019.
- With support from NOAA, The Ocean Foundation reached an important milestone in launching a 3 year project to build long term capacity to study ocean acidification in the Pacific Islands. In designing this project they looked at the barriers that prevent sustained monitoring and research. To bridge these gaps, they established the new Pacific Islands Ocean Acidification Center, co-hosted by SPC and the University of the South Pacific, with support from the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and the University of Otago. This new Center employs local experts who can provide technical assistance to partners throughout the region.
- As The Ocean Foundation looks towards the future, it is working to equip the next generation of leaders through technical training and direct transfer of financial and technological resources, aiming to be the best service provider possible to the international ocean acidification community and bridge the “technical chasm” that exists for many.
“The Our Ocean Conference series provides an important venue for assessing the health of our ocean and making strong commitments to reducing threats and improving ocean health. Hosting the Our Ocean Conference in Palau provides a chance for world leaders to see the challenges and opportunities posed to large ocean states.” – The Ocean Foundation