Happy Earth Day!
The theme for Earth Day 2022 is Invest in Our Planet – a concept that emphasizes the urgency of acting now to preserve and protect our planet for the good of Earth, ourselves and our loved-ones!
At Birch Aquarium, we encourage you to join us in investing in our ocean planet — from the surface, to the deep, and everything in between — not just this Earth Day, but EVERY day.
Why Invest in Our Ocean Planet?
More than 70 percent of Earth’s surface is made up of the ocean — it’s no wonder why Earth is nicknamed the Blue Planet! So it’s no surprise that our ocean plays a vital role in Earth’s health and is connected to our lives through more ways than one.
The ocean provides an abundance of habitat – from our local Giant Kelp Forests to tropical coral reefs – for millions of marine organisms and serves as a major source of food for both marine life and even us humans. But one of the largest reasons why we must invest in our oceans is due to the fact that the ocean acts as a giant carbon sink. You might be asking yourself … what does that mean?
A carbon sink is when a natural environment – in this case the ocean – is able to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gasses that contributes to global warming. As more greenhouse gasses — like carbon dioxide — are present in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped and increases Earth’s overall temperature. If all this carbon dioxide was not absorbed by the ocean, then Earth would reach uninhabitable temperatures. At the end of the day, even if you don’t live near the ocean, the ocean is always putting in work to keep you alive. That’s why we must invest in our ocean planet now!
We Need to Act Now!
One of the major take-home messages that scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and other climate scientists emphasize is that climate change is happening at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen before. You might be familiar with how these changes have already begun to affect our life on land. Droughts, intense wildfires, and rising global temperatures are just a few examples of the dangers that we face if we fail to act to combat climate change.
But how is climate change impacting our ocean planet? From the surface to the deep sea, the ocean is already feeling the effects of climate change — it’s causing the ocean to become warmer, more acidic, and depleted of oxygen.
- Marine heat waves are long periods of abnormally warm water temperatures linked to climate change — we’re continuing to experience larger patches of abnormally warmer water along California’s otherwise chilly coastline. These marine heatwaves damage temperate ecosystems — like our local Giant Kelp Forests — that not accustomed to the tropical-like seas.
- Ocean acidification directly impacts marine ecosystems like coral reefs and its many inhabitants. About 25% of the carbon dioxide in the air enters the ocean — over time, as the ocean absorbs more and more carbon dioxide, its pH is changing. So much carbon dioxide has entered the ocean since people began burning fossil fuels that the acidity of ocean surface waters has increased by over 30%.
- Deoxygenation is the overall decline in the oxygen content of oceanic and coastal waters — this process affects marine environments and the organisms that call them home. It’s estimated that the ocean absorbs more than 93 percent of Earth’s warming from climate change.
How is Birch Aquarium Investing in Our Ocean Planet?
This Earth Day, we encourage you to join us in our commitment to Invest in Our Ocean Planet. We wanted to highlight a few of the many ways Birch Aquarium is continuing to work towards this goal every single day.
1. Aquarium Conservation Partnership
Birch Aquarium joined the Aquarium Conservation Partnership — along with 24 total non-profit aquariums accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums — and are actively working towards a long-term goal to achieve carbon neutrality. Our common goal is to work collaboratively and leverage our research, conservation and science to focus, communicate, and educate others on climate change and climate solutions.
2. Climate Action Advisory Committee
We’ve developed an internal Climate Action Advisory Committee and aim to reduce our own emissions here at Birch Aquarium by reducing food waste, implementing more energy efficient processes, equipment, and more.
3. Communicating Scripps Science
As the public exploration center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography, we continue to collaborate with Scripps scientists to further climate change research and amplify their science. Scripps is a global leader in observing how our planet is changing, understanding impacts, finding solutions, and training the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders. You can learn more about climate change from Scripps experts. If you have any climate change questions you would like answered? Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most recently, we collaborated with Scripps Marine Vertebrate Collection to display a Pacific footballfish specimen at the aquarium. This deep-sea anglerfish washed up near Encinitas last December and is one of only 31 known specimens collected worldwide. This collection is one of four collections that make up the Oceanographic Collections at Scripps, one of the largest university-based oceanographic collections in the world. These collections are housed at Scripps and available to the scientific community for ongoing research, education, and outreach!
4. Species Survival Plans – Conserving Charismatic Creatures
Birch Aquarium participates in a number of Species Survival Plans to ensure the conservation of healthy and diverse populations of select species including Little Blue Penguins, Lined Seahorses, Potbelly Seahorses, Spotted Seahorses, Leafy Seadragons and Banggai Cardinalfish.
Species Survival Plans serve as cooperatively managed programs that oversee the population management of select species within AZA member institutions and enhance conservation of species in the wild. Each SSP Program coordinates the individual activities of participating member institutions through a variety of species conservation, research, husbandry, management, and educational initiatives. We are proud to be part of such a crucial program to ensure future healthy populations of these incredible species.
5. Incorporating climate change in the classroom
Birch Aquarium is working to incorporate more climate science and climate solution-based programs in our educational programs to help inspire the next generation of ocean stewards to take climate action — soon, over half of our educational programs will focus on climate science.
6. Shop Sustainably
Our Gift Shop selects recycled, upcycled or sustainable material — including reusable bags and water bottles, transitional cotton shirts, and more. We also partner with organizations that promote conservation and give back to our planet! We’re excited to bring in a new line of sustainable plush items — including a sea turtle plush and shark plush — that spread conservation messaging and bring attention to endangered species.
How can YOU invest in Our Ocean Planet?
Climate change is a pressing issue that requires our full attention now. So … what can you do to protect our ocean planet?
Be it by reducing your plastic use, donating to conservation organizations, keeping your community clean, or reducing your carbon footprint – there are countless ways to act now and invest in our oceans. Here are just a few ways to start!
1. Stay Informed.
- Learn about policies and conservation issues within your country, state, and local community. Stay up-to-date on current environmental issues so you can make choices that keep the planet in mind throughout your day-to-day life.
- Scripps Institution of Oceanography is another excellent resource to stay informed! Scripps Oceanography is a global leader in climate change science – you can learn from Scripps experts about how climate change will affect the planet and people here.
2. Say NO to single-use plastics.
- Single-use plastics harm our environment since they cannot be recycled – these pollutants often make their way into marine ecosystems. Simple efforts like using tupperware and reusable utensils for your packed-lunch, bringing your own bags to the grocery store, and reusing the plastic products we do use whenever possible, are great ways to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans!
3. Opt for sustainable seafood.
- Organizations like California Sea Grant have created digital profiles that are great resources to use when determining whether to purchase a specific type of seafood and to see what kinds of seafood are available locally. These resources provide information about the biology, fishery, nutrition, and culinary uses of species caught or farmed in California to help consumers make informed seafood choices. You can check-out their seafood profiles here.
4. Discover ways to clean-up our environment!
- Bring a trash bag with you each time you go to the beach or out on a walk. That way you can pick up trash and enjoy your time outside! You can also participate in organized clean-ups at your local beaches or other waterways to remove debris from marine habitats.
5. Find ways to limit use of gasoline-powered activities.
- Driving an electric car isn’t the only way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions! Swap your 2 minute car ride for a 20 minute walk, use public transportation for trips to the grocery store, or arrange a carpool with friends to get to school or work. While we recognize this may not be possible for all, we encourage you if you can.
We encourage you to join us in investing in our ocean planet — from the surface, to the deep, and everything in between — not just this Earth Day but EVERY day!
Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 – it takes place every year on April 22nd. It was first proposed by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, who wanted to provide a voice to emerging environmental consciousness. Be sure to check out the official Earth Day website to learn more!