by Laurel Zaima, RJD Intern
The buildup of carbon dioxide in the ecosystem impacts more than just the earth’s climate. One of the most commonly known consequences of the surplus release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is global warming; however, changes in the ocean chemistry is also associated with the increased emission of CO2. Ocean acidification (OA) is referred to as the “other CO2 problem” that impacts the marine ecosystem by decreasing the pH of the ocean.
The rising carbon dioxide levels are strongly accredited to the anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels, cement manufacturing, land use change, and other forms of human activity. If immediate action is not taken to reduce the buildup of CO2, direct and indirect consequences from OA, such as extinction, will occur in the marine ecosystems. Exact predictions of the OA impact on the environment are uncertain due to the lack of knowledge and research about OA. Therefore, there is a necessity for more OA research and a greater educational outreach to the public in order to lower the carbon dioxide concentrations and reduce OA. G. Fauville, R. Säljö, and S. Dupont (2012) strive to address the issues of ocean acidification and the importance of public awareness and knowledge of environmental issues in their paper: Impact of Ocean Acidification on Marine Ecosystems: Educational challenges and Innovations. These scientists found that it takes more than just informing the public about the negative impacts of OA; a strong understanding of the OA threat is needed to change misconceptions and false ideas, and to create an adoption of environmentally friendly practices. A collaboration of educational methods to present environmental facts is a successful technique to provide adequate science literacy to students, teachers and the general public.
There are a variety of teaching methods that can be applied in two main forms of education: formal and informal education. Formal education refers to a guided curriculum that is taught by upper secondary schools and universities. Formal education of OA first requires teachers and professors to initially obtain accurate information from reliable peer-reviewed sources, and published factsheets by OA consortia or marine research centers. Once the teachers have created an OA curriculum for their students, they can begin implementing different educational methods that most effectively teaches the material. Students have a tendency to obtain more information when presented with the opportunity to conduct experiments to answer specific scientific inquiries. Therefore, the hands-on experiences, virtual hands-on experiences, and field experiments are all very successful formal methods in educating students about OA. Another formal education method is allowing students to be the knowledge creators and community educators. This process lets students contribute their knowledge about OA to the local and global community. The formal methods that offer an interaction between scientists and students, whether it is direct contact, virtual contact, or via scientific research papers, allows the students apply their knowledge about OA to real research and global scenarios. This personal interaction has the potential to instill a long-term interest in science for the students. The last formal education approach is learning through multimodal experiences by pairing recent advancements in digital technology with traditional experimentation. Students combined the OA data analysis that they collected from a hands-on experiment with the OA data analysis that they obtain from a virtual experiment, and they posted their results online to be shared all around the world.
Informal education typically utilizes media, such as newspapers, radio, television, the Internet, and science centers as the source of information. Science centers and science museums are very proficient in providing knowledge about climate change, and they often hold exhibitions, workshops, and hands-on activities for the public. Unfortunately, since OA is a relatively new topic, few science centers cover information about ocean chemistry changes. Movies and podcasts are two forms of popular media that address a variety of environmental issues, including OA.
Each of the different formal and informal educational methods have benefits, but they also have time, money, and accessibility limitations. Overall, any of the virtual resources are the most economically reasonable for the consumer, and have the highest potential to be utilized long-term. However, the best way to reach scientific literacy among the public is to collaborate the different educational methods. Although ocean acidification is a new research area, the dire consequences of OA to the marine ecosystem are occurring fast. An increase in OA scientific research, and formal and informal education to the public can implement efficient CO2 reduction strategies.
TED Ideas Worth Sharing. n.p. 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.
“Ocean Acidification increasing at unprecedented rate not seen in last 300 million years.” Climate Citizen. n.p. 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.