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Long branches of seaweed in ocean

Warm oceans need cool science

By Debbie Farris

Seaweed in warming oceans

Note: this article is part of a series on how Oregon State scientists are working to mitigate climate change. Read more: Quantifying Risk, Informing Policy and Sustaining Resources.

"If we harness human ingenuity and recognize that a healthy ocean is essential for long-term prosperity, we can tackle the enormous threats facing the ocean and we can make a transition from vicious cycles to virtuous cycles." ~ Jane Lubchenco, Distinguished Professor and marine ecologist

While recent challenges—climate change specifically and science generally—have been unsettling for many in the scientific community, it has caused us to reflect on what we, a College of Science at a public, land-grant institution, have done and can do to positively impact climate change. Scientists here and across the nation are asking the question, “Who are we?”

"The United States has a chance to lead and pursue great economic opportunities and jobs while also addressing one of the greatest issues of our time: climate change." ~ Greg Surrier, Zoology, '79, Director of NextGen Climate America.

We are advocates for science. Or, as Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University, put it when speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting earlier this year, “Scientists as Sentinels.”

To that end, our faculty and students are conducting research in areas with broad relevance to key areas, such as marine, data and materials sciences. Their work explores one of the most difficult problems of our time: climate change.

In these pressing times, our College’s mission is clear: To advance science and build global leaders for a healthy people, living on a healthy planet, in a healthy economy. We have made impressive progress in renewable energy, fishery reform, reduction in ocean acidification, coral reef preservation, and tools to mitigate the effects of offshore energy exploration. Across science, we are harnessing the power of big data to predict warming temperatures and to create mathematical models to better understand climate change.

Our OneScience community is impacting climate change through research and advocacy to inform policy, quantify risk and sustain our resources. Our faculty and students work to advance coastal and marine sciences to better understand ocean processes and the role they play in earth systems to meet environmental, economic and social needs.

Inarguably the world’s oceans are vital to our existence as the main source of protein production for three billion people; are directly or indirectly responsible for the employment of more than 200 million people; and contribute $270 billion to the planet’s gross domestic product. This “blue economy” provides incentive-based solutions that offer hope for addressing the environmental challenges facing our oceans, as Distinguished Professor and renowned marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco pointed out at the AAAS meeting.

Our work and voices tell the story of who we are and who we are becoming.

Science at Oregon State is the voice of the next generation of leaders who speak out for science and engage with people around the world to bring positive change to society. Now is the time for all of us, scientists and supporters of science, like you, to engage in deeper dialogue, to listen to each other and to make our voices heard as scientifically literate citizens.

Our goal, as humans, is to live peaceful, healthy, productive lives as long as we can. There is much we can do to mitigate our worst effects. ~ George O. Poinar, Jr., world renowned paleo-entomologist and courtesy faculty.

***Read the rest of this series on how scientists at OSU are tackling global warming:

Quantifying risk in a changing world

Scientists at OSU work with big data to tackle climate change on many fronts.

Informing Policy: Taking science to policymakers

Given the risks of climate change, scientists are moving beyond their traditional comfort zone and speaking out about the public value of their research.

Sustaining Resources

Materials scientists at Oregon State are working on new energy and environmental applications that will contribute to a healthy planet.