Tuesday, April 9, 2013

SUP, Science

Many people think that scientists are just geeks who like staring at beakers in the lab. We’re not. At least we're not just that... We’re (grown-up?) kids who love exploring. We like surfing, rock climbing, hiking, biking, running, sailing, diving, paddling, and, most importantly, learning about the world around us.

SUP, Science is all about the adventure. SUP, Science is an engaging oceanographic research program designed to take advantage of two very powerful things: (1) the nascent developments of fast-response chemical sensors and (2) the pure enticement of playing in the waves. We are strapping chemical sensors (to measure pH, oxygen, temperature, and salinity, to be specific) to Stand Up Paddleboards and paddling through the local surf zone and near shore waters. Paddleboards are ideal for near shore measurements because they are extremely mobile while barely disrupting the natural dynamics of the water—critical for accurate recordings of our environment. Equally importantly, SUPs are accessible by people of essentially all ages. This means that our scientific discoveries won’t be hidden in the lab; they’ll be on the water’s surface where all can see and even participate. Ocean chemistry is changing at a rate that hasn’t been "experienced" for over 20 million years. We have at our fingertips a unique opportunity to begin recording these changes in a tangible way. 

As a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an avid waterman, and engaged environmental volunteer, I see an immense opportunity to bring my interests together to match the world’s need for a better understanding of our role in global change.

Model of the SurfpHOx: a pH, oxygen, temperature, and
salinity sensor developed by the Martz Lab
@ Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Coinciding exactly with Ocean Hour, April 13, 2013, we will kick off SUP, Science with a paddle through the La Jolla Kelp Forest and a brief lesson on changing ocean chemistry. As part of my volunteer experience with Outdoor Outreach, students will learn how to clean up their waste, not just by picking up garbage, but also by discovering how their daily decisions are connected to the ocean. Fresh, local, organic food choices produce significantly less pollution, much of which would end up in the ocean. Going for a bike ride is good for our bodies and minds and produces less pollution than playing video games. As Mother Ocean’s founder and Quiksilver Waterman Justin Riney writes, “every person on this planet, regardless of location, is affected by the ocean in some way; likewise, the ocean is equally affected by our actions as individuals and collectively as a society.” 

Justin captures the essence of SUP, Science’s message: we have a powerful opportunity to change our planet for the better. It starts with awareness. It continues through experience. Get outside!

Acknowledgements: The birth of SUP, Science comes as a result of generous support from Timothy Ray's family and the Scripps Foundation for Science & the Environment. Thank you!

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