Part improv, part educational outreach, STREET SMARTS are live, impromptu demonstrations by local scientists that appear in very unconventional places. For more information about this and other programs, please go to : pop-upscience.com.
The ocean naturally acts as Earth’s sink for carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, helping to keep the balance of carbon that has existed in the ecosystem in flux for over millions of years. But recently, human activities have been seeding the atmosphere far more carbon dioxide than the ocean can feasibly turn over—nearly 25 million tons per day. With all that extra CO2 hanging above the water, natural oceanic chemistry is transforming healthy waters into something far more hazardous: an aquatic environment that’s 30% more acidic than ever before. Like vinegar on baking soda, this ocean acidification is impacting the shell-building organisms which live in marine environments—from the well-known corals and shellfish to the microscopic phytoplankton and diatoms, which make up the foundational pillars of the marine food chain.
It is easy to think of the ocean as a big vast body of empty water that doesn’t need much attention. But if the acidity in the ocean continues to climb, cultural icons in Seattle like orcas, salmon, Dungeness and oysters will start to disappear. We wanted to give Seattle an opportunity to learn about ocean acidification and phytoplankton so that they might consider how they can best help the Puget Sound. Even the smallest changes to a daily routine can help make a difference.
On September 13, 2015, we premiered Pop-Up Science’s first "Street Smarts" event with Washington State Ferries—popping up on the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry with regional oceanographers to “do ocean science on the ocean”. Along with a small film crew, Pop-Up Science brought two volunteer oceanographers who led visitors through site-specific, hands-on activities on ocean acidification chemistry, marine food chains, and regional water monitoring. A large component of the 2-hour event was simply allowing visitors to meet professional scientists and hear their stories.
We chose the Washington State Ferry as a location largely due to its role in data collection. The Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) offers monitoring data from all over Puget Sound and beyond in near-real time. Part of this data actually comes from ferries equipped with sensors from the WA Department of Ecology and University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab to study nutrients and particle movement. Just by going back and forth across the water, the ferries help contribute to a huge network of people trying to understand the health of our ocean. We wanted to share Washington State Ferries’ work with unsuspecting passengers, as we felt it is a prime example of a relatively small act that has a huge community impact.
For more information on ocean acidification, NANOOS, and life as a field scientist, check out the links below: