Changing Oceans & Living Seashells

Kristin Holloman-Noe
NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Open Minds Teen Science Cafe Whiteville


Written by Patricia Faulk, Teen Leader

During the November cafe, our teens dived deep within the oceans of earth to learn how our everyday lifestyle affects the ecosystems of our oceans, so gear up and explore the the oceans with us as our guest speaker, Kristin Holloman-Noe, guides us along the way.

Before the cafe began, Holloman-Noe passed around small surveys that asks for everyone’s thoughts on climate change and what causes it. Building on that notion, she addressed
the ignorance and false information dealing with climate change before gearing her lecture towards that direction. False rumors and untruthful variations were put to an end as she spoke and placed a firm definition on climate change; put simply, climate change is the effect on Earth’s environment due to too much carbon dioxide within the atmosphere. This abundance of CO2 comes from our constant use of fossil fuels in our everyday life; almost everyday we use transportation, electricity, and products that are made by large factories, which are made possible by fossil fuels. After the carbon dioxide is released from the burning of fossil fuels, it is “scooped” into the ocean by the water’s rolling waves, which causes the ocean to become more acidic from the buildup of CO2. With this in mind, the effects of the ocean becoming too acidic is vast and difficult to explain, so Holloman-Noe chose to explain it using two different activities: and experiment and Jenga.

Caption:CO2 emissions are dissolving pteropods Images of the changing shells due to acidic breakdown. These translucent sea butterflies known as pteropods, which provide food for salmon, herring and other fish are critical to the health of the ocean food chain. Credit/ reference: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Hands on Activity

To first understand the amount of CO2 that needs to be added to make the ocean acidic, each groups of teens conducted an experiment. To complete the experiment, the group needed to see how many drops of vinegar it takes to make about 25 milliliters of salt water acidic. Each teen found that it took several drops before the salt water became even slightly acidic. Although it took a high concentration of vinegar to raise the acidity of the water, the acidity of our oceans is still a growing problem that could spiral out of control if nothing sufficient is done to stop it. On the other hand, the game Jenga emphasises the effects of the elevated acidity in the oceans. While the game itself represented a food chain, every two rows represented a different species in the food chain. Since there is buildup of CO2 in the ocean, shelled creatures, like shrimp and urchins, can’t properly develop their shells, so their population drops and multiple blocks are taken from the bottom two rows. This continues for the next three populations of creatures due to their food source dropping in number, so their numbers dropped as well. Although there was multiple blocks taken out, the tower never fell, but the only reason that it didn’t fall was our delicate treatment of the blocks. In reality, people are rarely cautious of their carbon dioxide emissions, causing countless amounts of carbon dioxide to be released. In addition, the excess CO2 in the atmosphere and ocean is impacting the overall temperature. This statement was supported by another experiment; with the cups of water from the first experiment, our speaker covered the cups then placed them under a heat source that simulated the sun. Over the course of a few minutes, the temperature of the water rose a few degrees, which is a considerable amount after considering that is was only a few minutes. Added together, these experiments and facts show us that our actions are resulting in a negative impact on Earth’s environment as it leaded to dramatic changes in climate and a drop in the numbers of several species.

The cafe ended on a positive tone as Holloman-Noe shared the solutions and small contributions that can help fix the problem. Even if it is a small amount of change, any change dealing with this situation can have a positive effect on the environment. It can range from the individual reduction of idling with the car on and cutting off lights that are not being used at the moment to a community-wide project dealing with the reduction of emissions through a shift of energy obtainment; instead of using all fossil fuels, some areas or buildings can switch to wind or solar energy. In addition, reduction doesn’t have to deal solely with carbon dioxide emissions; you can also reduce the amount of materials you use, such as plastic bottles and plastic bags from stores. Although recycling is helpful to the environment, it has to go through a factory that emits CO2 to be made into something else. All in all, as a person, we can do several things to help the environment and together we can do so much more. Climate change is a serious issue worldwide, but it can become a minor or non-existent issue with your help; every contribution is an important contribution.