The decrease in calcium carbonate saturation state from ocean acidification is important to Pacific Northwest shellfish living in conditions that are naturally close to harmful saturation thresholds.  Anthropogenic additions of carbon dioxide (CO2) significantly impact the calcium carbonate saturation state in surface waters, reaching levels that are unfavorable or harmful for some local organisms.  Significant effects of rising anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 are detectable in Pacific Northwest waters now, and these effects will continue to grow as CO2 continues to increase.  This impacts the organisms, but also shellfish growers and tribes that depend on this resource, impacting coastal economies, and cultural practices.

Each of the IOOS Regional Associations along the Pacific coast, NANOOS, AOOS, CeNCOOS, and SCCOOS, has seen the impact of ocean acidification on regional shellfish industries.  Rising atmospheric CO2 changes ocean chemistry and negatively impacts shelled organisms because the declining calcium carbonate saturation state makes it more difficult for calcifying organisms (oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, etc.) to produce or maintain their calcium carbonate shells or skeletons.

Over the last several years each region has connected observational capabilities with shellfish industry stakeholders.  This connection has grown informally from industry outreach to academia (e.g., Whiskey Creek Hatchery to OSU), through regional partnering to define the Alaska Ocean Acidification Monitoring Network and the California-Current Acidification Network (C-CAN),  and, most recently in 2013, through IOOS dedicated funds to test aragonite saturation state prototype monitoring equipment (pCO2 and Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) sensors) developed by Burke Hales at Oregon State University for use in shellfish operations, dubbed Burke-O-Lators.

While current IOOS efforts have been likened to “Putting headlights on a car” by Mark Wiegardt, Whiskey Creek Hatchery co-owner, it is time to increase the effort, to avail ourselves of new technology and communities of practice and to codify these practices, facilitate their export to new systems, and thus optimize return on investments made to date.  We have learned from growers that their ideal monitoring technology is: “a bullet proof sensor that delivers pH, aragonite, temperature, and salinity data.  Similar to the system we have in place now but lighter and not so ‘crashy’” as quoted by Alan Barton, Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association monitoring lead.

In collaboration with NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program, U.S. IOOS’ Ocean Technology Transition Project awarded the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory a three year grant to advance four new objectives regarding an ocean acidification (OA) observing system that addresses the needs of impacted and potentially vulnerable U.S. industries and stakeholders.  This will effectively turn the proverbial headlights onto “high”.

The project will develop and test three iterations of new, low-cost OA sensors.  These instruments, will allow low-cost measurement of pCO2, temperature (T) and salinity (S), and ultimately pH and dissolved O2 (O2, aq) in a variety of deployment configurations.  These will include small commercial fishing or tourist vessels, field moored locations, and autonomous free-drifting GPS-tracked and cell-phone-reporting systems.  The project will also involve the development of best practices and QA/QC procedures in collaboration with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory; implementation of data flow to end users; and performing of outreach and education services to OA-impacted stakeholders.

Project Details

Funded activities are listed below by implementation year.  Status updates will be added to this page as the project progresses.

Year 1 - $318,000 (September 2014 – August 2015)

  1. Build and harden new sensor.  The new sensor development will be a coordinated effort among the OSU group (proof of concept and field trials/validation), the Sunburst Sensors group (sensor calibration and optimization, enhancement of resilience and endurance, followed by commercialization) and the shellfisheries stakeholders (provision of access to test-bed environments and end-user testing).  The ultimate objective is the development of three low-cost commercial sensors for autonomous deployment and telemetry from platforms such as small commercial vessels; free-drifting estuarine or nearshore environments; or targeted fixed-location deployment in aquaculture facilities such as rearing tanks or open-water grow-out sites.  Update: Work to date has centered on continued development and field testing of the ACDC technology, specifically via the tide-flat deployment of bottom-mounted sensing packages. Several prototypes of tide-flat instruments have been deployed on multiple occasions in Netarts Bay.  The ACDC instrument has been modified to incorporate several additional low-cost sensors into the package and reduce the power budget.
  2. Maintain Burke-O-Lators at existing sites.  Update: Initiated support of Combined CO2 analyzers (aka Burke-o-Lators) at stakeholder shellfish-producer sites.
  3. Maintain Burke-O-Lator systems at Carlsbad AquaFarms, Hog Island Oyster Company, and Alutiiq Pride Shellfish (all supported by the FY13 Pacific Ocean Acidification Project) and Taylor Shellfish (supported by funds from PCSGA through the Washington Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington).  Update: Continued support to hatchery-deployed CO2 analyzer systems at at Carlsbad AquaFarms, Hog Island Oyster Company, and Alutiiq Pride Shellfish using the layered expertise model. This model has been highly successful at the Alutiiq Pride, Taylor, and Whiskey Creek sites.
  4. Conduct QA/QC in order to maintain the highest QA/QC procedures and to define the level of accuracy and precision of the monitoring equipment for both the Burke-O-Lators and the new sensors.  This is necessary for both existing and new procedures to define if the sensor.  
  5. Build community awareness.  The IOOS RA Directors will continue work with U.S. industries and stakeholders to assess needs and deliver relevant information.  End users include the shellfish industry, primarily through our contacts established from FY13 IOOS and earlier with PCSGA, a funded partner on this proposal, and ASGA (Weatherly Bates, ED), as well as commercial fishermen (e.g., United Fishermen of Alaska and Alaska Marine Conservation Council).

    Update: The U.S. IOOS West Coast and Alaska Regional Associations and the PCSGA continued their efforts with shellfish industries and stakeholders to assess needs and deliver relevant information.

Year 2 - $300,000 (September 2015 – August 2016):

  1. Deploy and test new sensors at 5 sites.  Five units built by Sunburst Sensors will be delivered to OSU and its partners for field testing.
  2. Maintain Burke-O-Lators at existing sites and add new sensors.  Engage technical experts with growers to test and evaluate new sensors.
  3. Add new data flows from new sensors at existing sites to the IOOS Pacific Region Ocean Acidification Portal
  4. RAs and PCSGA continue to work with community to assess utility of new sensors, practices, etc. and determine potential locations of new sites.  The four IOOS RA Directors will work with PCSGA Director to develop a program to identify priority sites in their collective regions for the five new sensors to be deployed in Y3.

Year 3 (September 2016 – August 2017):

  1. Expand deployment and sensor integration.  Capture the improvements of the Sunburst/OST prototype 2nd-generation pH sensor incorporating ACDC, and deliver commercial units to stakeholders.
  2. Maintain Burke-O-Lators at existing sites and add new sensors as appropriate.  Expand sensors to 5 additional sites as identified in Year 2. 
  3. Add new data flows from new sensors at existing sites to the IOOS Pacific Region Ocean Acidification Portal.
  4. RAs and PCSGA work to engage new growers in observing practices.

For more information about this project, please contact Jan Newton.

For more information about IOOS’ Ocean Technology Transition Project, please contact Tiffany Vance, Project Manager.

Project Partners