Practicum Project | 2024

Investigating blue carbon alternatives as possible offsets at the Aquarium of the Pacific

As one of the largest aquariums in the United States, the Aquarium of the Pacific wants to raise industry sustainability standards by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Since decarbonization is not currently possible at the Aquarium due to the high energy demand of sustaining marine organisms, the Aquarium is investigating the possibility of purchasing  effective carbon offsets, which are GHG emission removal efforts that compensate for CO2 emissions from a specific source. However, lack of standardization and available information for offset programs means that determining the actual efficacy of offset programs can be challenging. 

The Aquarium has sought our assistance to research different options for carbon offsets and their sources of uncertainty, potential co-benefits, and discounting, or the issuing of fewer credits to a project than the GHG reductions achieved. Through the course of a year, our team will delve into aquarium carbon emissions and offset options. In particular, we will investigate blue carbon credit programs, which store carbon in the ocean and marine ecosystems. We will assess seagrass carbon sinks and seagrass restoration techniques. Our research will be further strengthened by collaborating with similarly sized aquariums, animal care facilities, and other nonprofits to learn about other offset efforts. We will also consult with carbon offset providers and verification services to determine the ideal offset bundle for the Aquarium to meet its sustainability goals. It is especially important for the Aquarium as a non-profit organization to give back to the very environment that inspires their mission, and we are excited to learn more about these key carbon sinks and to assist the Aquarium, and the broader industry, to be truly sustainable long-term.

Student Team:  Jiovanni Estevez, Katie Francisco, Melissa Gonzalez, Korra Le, Frankie Mele, Lilly Mitchell, Mitchell Rebollo, Laila Shaaban, Vera Zheng 

Client: The Aquarium of the Pacific

Advisor: Dr. Peter Kareiva