18 – Nathaniel O.

Hi I’m Nathaniel and I’m an Environmental Studies and Sustainability major in my freshman year. I’m from the Walled Lake area and have lived in Michigan my whole life. I like to play basketball and golf in my free time.

The one thing I thought was interesting about Australia, before getting to know the country more, was that it was used as a prisoner island during colonial times. During this trip I would like to get to know how the people of Australia live and what the laid back lifestyle is really all about.

My project concerns the rising need for energy in Australia and how that contributes to the acidification of the ocean. Currently in most cases, energy is produced from burning fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide is cast into the atmosphere and then dissolves into the surface water of the ocean, which can be referred to as a “sink.” Humanly generated carbon tips the natural balance of the carbon cycle and overloads the system. The ocean is naturally slightly basic at an average pH level of 8.2, but when carbon is introduced to the ocean in large amounts, it turns it slightly more acidic to 8.1. This change can make it difficult for organisms that have calcium carbonate in their shells or skeletons, like crabs and coral, making it hard for them to grow their shells and survive. Many fish depend on coral reefs for their habitat and many communities in Australia and across the world depend on fishing for their livelihood.

Australia is going to continue to grow and require more energy. However, there are solutions to this problem without requiring fossil fuels. While in Australia, I want to discover how some communities are tackling this issue and what can be done to halt the acidification of the ocean caused by carbon emitted from energy production. Also, I want to compare the efforts of people in Australia to that of the United States, a relatively much larger carbon dioxide emitter.

Bennett, J. (2018, December 18). Ocean acidification. Retrieved from https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/ocean-acidification

Ireland, P. (2013, August 13). What You Need to Know About Ocean Acidification. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/what-you-need-know-about-ocean-acidification?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrLrexPeC4gIVCZ7ACh1abwZTEAAYASAAEgI59_D_BwE

Tollefson, J. (2016, February 24). Landmark experiment confirms ocean acidification’s toll on Great Barrier Reef. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/news/landmark-experiment-confirms-ocean-acidification-s-toll-on-great-barrier-reef-1.19410

Project Summary

Ocean acidification has been brought about by the increase in humanly caused carbon dioxide emissions. This is due to the production of energy from fossil fuel sources. This research project aimed to look at the impacts being felt by the Great Barrier Reef and communities surrounding it, as well as any potential solutions for the issue moving forward.


While in Australia, I was able to find several examples of action being taken against this issue or information that was useful to my project. In traveling across the country, I was exposed to the way Australians live. Many homes across the nation had solar panels on their roofs, which reduces each household’s carbon footprint. This was confirmed when we visited John and Simone Budd and observed how a low-emission house might work, seeing solar panels on top of their roof which powered their home. Large scale solar farms like those produced by Yates Red Mud Energy, as seen below in the first photo, are a lucrative way for Australia to transition to low carbon emission power sources. Major cities in Australia contain most of the country’s population, so it is very important for them to be conscious about their environmental impact. When we visited the Adelaide city council, I observed how a large city can be sustainable, with practices such as zero emission transport, increasing efficiency standards for buildings across the city, and upgrading to more efficient light bulbs for street lights. Even if the goal of significantly reducing carbon emissions met, there is still the issue of all the carbon dioxide that currently exists in the ocean that has been added by humans, upsetting the pH levels. A possible solution to this is large scale seaweed farms that would pull carbon dioxide out of the ocean waters and convert it into oxygen, something learned from a visit to Biofilta, a company specializing in urban food production and stormwater catchment. These findings were crucial to my knowledge about the research topic and what can be done to solve it.


NAP. (2010). Read “Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a  Changing Ocean” at NAP.edu. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/12904/chapter/2

NOAA. (2017, July 6). Corals. Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/corals/coral07_importance.html

Origin. (2015, January 22). Electricity Generation In Australia – Origin Energy. Retrieved from https://www.originenergy.com.au/blog/about-energy/energy-in-australia.html

Orr, J. C. (2005). Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms. Nature, 437(7059), 681-686. doi:10.1038/nature04095

Patterson, B. D. (2019, June 18). Renewable CO2 recycling and synthetic fuel production in a marine environment. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/116/25/12212

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