Santa Monica is a world-renowned destination and community with its oceanfront shops, ferris wheel, pier — and, of course, the ocean. What goes unseen is the toll ocean acidification is taking on marine life and biodiversity just offshore. Oceans act as a carbon sink, absorbing a quarter to a third of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. As humans emit increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, more and more gets absorbed. That lowers seawater pH and increases the ocean’s acidity. Even these slight changes in chemistry threaten to disrupt the natural balance, resulting in habitat destruction and marine life loss. Ocean acidification is a silent, destructive force, and eye-grabbing headlines on its impacts often come too late. A tragic example of this is the death of large sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is largely due to warming temperatures and increasing acidity. 

For our project, we partnered with The Bay Foundation and researchers from UC Davis to identify anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide impacting Santa Monica Bay. In addition to global emissions, there are local, man-made sources of carbon dioxide that can dramatically affect pH, carbonate chemistry and other oceanographic parameters . Last year, a UCLA practicum team worked with the Bay Foundation to assess the potential for kelp forests in the bay to serve as a refuge for marine life from ocean acidification. We plan to further this research and advance the Bay Foundation’s work to identify the magnitude of acidification in the bay.

Our team will first conduct research to identify places in the Santa Monica Bay where human activities or natural phenomena caused variations in dissolved carbon dioxide levels and pH at the ocean’s surface. We will then use UCLA’s Research Zodiac — a 27-foot coastal research vessel — to collect data on localized oceanographic parameters in these targeted locations.

Through this research, we hope to increase awareness of human impacts on the bay and the marine species that live there.

Team: Anna George, Noah Horvath, Destiny Johnson, Eileen Ly, Roajhaan Sakaki, Shang Shi
Advisor: Rob Eagle

Client: The Bay Foundation
The Bay Foundation is a non-profit environmental group founded in 1990 to restore and enhance Santa Monica Bay and local coastal waters.