AltaSea: Trending – October 9, 2019

A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.


The World’s Oceans Are in Danger, Major Climate Change Report Warns (The New York Times)

Earth’s oceans are under severe strain from climate change, a major new United Nations report warns, which threatens everything from the ability to harvest seafood to the well-being of hundreds of millions of people living along the coasts.

Rising temperatures are contributing to a drop in fish populations in many regions, and oxygen levels in the ocean are declining while acidity levels are on the rise, posing risks to important marine ecosystems, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking.

Ocean robots take the pulse of our planet by measuring microbes (The Los Angeles Times)

It looks like a trashcan bobbing in the waters off the California coast. But it’s hardly garbage. In fact, it may play a key role in monitoring the health of our oceans.

The vital signs? The health of the seas’ smallest residents — phytoplankton.

From diatoms encased in glass to dinoflagellates that can cause toxic algae blooms, phytoplankton are a diverse group of algae that live in the ocean. They serve as the base of the ocean food chain and are responsible for cycling nutrients in the water and producing oxygen through photosynthesis.

“One out of every two breaths of oxygen that you take is coming from plants in the ocean, and most of the time people don’t think about them because they’re microscopic,” said Bethany Kolody, a graduate student researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Requiem for a Climate Change Satellite, Decommissioned After 11 Years (Popular Mechanics)

After 11 straight years of success, the U.S.-European Jason-2/Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM) has come to an end. A joint mission combining the forces of NASA, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), Jason-2 has studied Earth’s changing oceans at a critical time in the planet’s history.

“Today we celebrate the end of this resoundingly successful international mission,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a press statement. “Jason-2/OSTM has provided unique insight into ocean currents and sea level rise with tangible benefits to marine forecasting, meteorology and our understanding of climate change.”

90 percent of ocean plastic waste comes from Asia and Africa (ODINAFRICA)

The world’s plastic problem has quickly become a plastic crisis and around five trillion pounds of it is currently in the oceans.

Major efforts to remove plastic from the oceans are a long way off, so researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany conducted a study to target the source of the ocean’s plastic.

The results, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, show that by reducing plastic pollution in the Yangtze and Ganges rivers, the amount of pollution that ends up in the ocean every year could decrease by half.

Getting to the source of the pollution is one of the best ways to get ahead of the plastic crisis according to the study.


The University of California system is ending its investment in fossil fuels (

The University of California system, which educates more than 280,000 students and employs 227,000 faculty and staff, announced late Tuesday it is divesting from fossil fuels. It’s the single largest action to date in the growing movement of institutions withdrawing their financial stakes in the industry that’s the principal driver of climate change.

“We believe hanging on to fossil fuel assets is a financial risk,” wrote Jagdeep Singh Bachher, the UC’s chief investment officer, and Richard Sherman, chair of the UC Board of Regents’ Investments Committee, in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

By the end of September, the UC’s $70 billion pension fund and $13.4 billion endowment will no longer hold any stakes in companies involved with extracting fossil fuels.

With so much shareholder wealth concentrated in so few hands, divestment is a potentially powerful lever for activists to pressure companies to emit fewer greenhouse gases or invest in cleaner energy.

Business school establishes new sustainable business minor (Daily Emerald)

In response to high student demand, the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business is now offering a new minor in sustainable business. About a dozen other universities have similar minor programs, including Loyola, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wyoming. The minor’s first courses will begin in winter 2020, but non-business and accounting majors can enroll in the minor starting this fall.

These courses will be at home at the Lundquist College of Business. The Lillis Complex, which houses the business school, is one of the most environmentally friendly business school facilities in the country, according to the college’s website.

The business school also offers a sustainability-concentrated MBA program ranked sixth in the nation by the Princeton Review, as well as the Center for Sustainable Business Practices and the student group Net Impact, which is dedicated to preparing students to make a positive impact on the world.

Designing Floating Buildings With an Eye to the Marine Species Living Underneath (

On an August day that is brutally hot by San Francisco’s foggy standards, Margaret Ikeda and Evan Jones, architecture faculty at the California College of the Arts (CCA), are on one of the campus’ back lots to present a vision of the future — though at first glance, the object they’re showing off doesn’t look like much. It’s white, roughly heart-shaped, and about the size of a sedan.

As a prototype for what the underside of a floating building — or possibly a whole floating community — might look like, however, it represents years of imagination, research, design, and testing. It also represents the hopeful vision of Ikeda, Jones, and their CCA colleague Adam Marcus, who together developed the concept with an eye toward a future of flooding amid steadily rising seas — particularly for the 10 percent of the world’s population that lives in low-lying coastal areas.


Irish teen invents method to remove microplastics from ocean, wins $50K Google Science Fair prize (ABC News)

A teen from Ireland may have found the solution to rid world’s oceans from the microplastics that are near impossible to remove.

Fionn Ferreira, 18, designed a new method for the extraction of microplastics, or particles of plastic less than 5 millimeters in diameter, as part of the Google Science Fair, an online competition open to students between the ages of 13 and 18.

The procedure, inspired by an article written by physicist Arden Warner, involves using non-toxic iron oxide to clean up oil spills, according to Ferreira’s project study. When he tested the method on water containing a known concentration of microplastics, the plastic particles migrated into the oil phase, and the fluid was able to be removed using strong magnets, he wrote in his project synopsis.

The biggest likely source of microplastics in California coastal waters? Our car tires (The Los Angeles Times)

Driving is not just an air pollution and climate change problem — turns out, it just might be the largest contributor of microplastics in California coastal waters.

That is one of many new findings, released Wednesday, from the most comprehensive study to date on microplastics in California. Rainfall washes more than 7 trillion microplastics, much of it tire particles left behind on streets, into San Francisco Bay each year — an amount 300 times greater than what comes from microfibers washing off polyester clothes, microbeads from beauty products and the many other plastics washing down our sinks and sewers.

These tiny plastics, invisible to the naked eye, have been vilified for tainting water and wildlife but are notoriously difficult to study. They’re everywhere and seemingly come from everywhere. They wash into the ocean in all different shapes and sizes, many covered with dyes and chemicals. Scientists and labs across the state, country and world haven’t even agreed on how exactly to measure or sample or study them.

When beaches are trashed, who pays the price? (NOAA)

If you arrived at your dream beach only to find it littered with plastic and other rubbish, would you stay and play — or be on your way?

A recent NOAA-funded study found that when the amount of marine debris normally on beaches is doubled, coastal economies could experience a substantial negative impact due to a decrease in beach visits and loss of economic activity in those communities. 

For example: The largest potential economic loss was calculated for Orange County, California, where a doubling of the typical amount of debris was estimated to cause a $414 million decrease in local tourism-related spending and a loss of nearly 4,300 jobs.


Open House: Turning the Tides on Plastics (AltaSea)

Saturday, October 26th from 10:00am – 12:00pm

2456 S. Signal Street, Berth 58, San Pedro, CA 90731

Featuring Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins from 5Gyres TrashBlitz and Keith Flitner from Oceans United.

The TrashBlitz is a web app enabling participants to collect data on the items most commonly polluting your neighborhood and the companies that produce them. 

Oceans United is a new nonprofit with an innovative ship designed to collect and recycle ocean plastic waste into reusable fuel.

Attendance is free and open to the public. For more information, click here.

Fundraiser at Surfcore Fitness (El Porto Shark)

Saturday, October 19th from 6:00pm – 9:00pm

SURFCORE Fitness, 1756 S. La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90035

Come eat great food from Rocco’s Neighborhood Pizza and grab a beer or glass of wine for $1. There will be Tahitian Dancers, a photobooth, and other surprises through the evening. Event giveaways from World Surf League, Rocco’s Neighborhood Pizza,, Eco Dive Center, Thrasher Magazine, Havana’s Cuban Cafe, Back for Yoga and more!

Tickets are $10 donation. Proceeds from the event go to support El Porto Shark. Click here for more information.

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