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Welcome to the Ocean Acidification Research Theme

Who we are

We are a group of scientists who, in 2006, began to assess the chemical and biological effects of Ocean Acidification in the New Zealand context.

Early on, we realised that seawater carbonate chemists and marine biologists needed to work together if we are to fully understand how OA might impact our coastal and open oceans.

Originally, we were a group of scientists from the University of Otago (Departments of Botany, Chemistry and Marine Science) and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA); today, we collaborate with researchers across New Zealand and overseas.

What we do

OAR supports OA research across New Zealand, and especially at Otago. We host bimonthly meetings of researchers at Otago, where cutting-edge science is presented and discussed. We support an annual workshop for OA workers across New Zealand (and increasingly from overseas), sponsoring international speakers and assisting students to attend. And we support students travelling to present their OA work at conferences around the world. For information about any of these, please contact the Theme Director Linn Hoffmann.

Recent Activities

10th National OA Workshop

The 10th National Ocean Acidification Workshop was held in Dunedin 15-17 February. You are able to view the programme.

The White Island Blitz

In the first week of December a team of 18 scientists from all over the world descended on Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty. These chemists, biologists, geologists, botanists and marine scientists went to carry out a “blitz” on the nearby marine volcano: Whakaari or White Island. Their aim: to find out as much as they can about the currents, the water, the algae, and the marine animals as they can in one week.

White Island is special because the volcano heats up the water and bubbles carbon dioxide into the water, through vents on the flanks of the volcano. It creates a marine environment that is both warmer and more acidic than “normal” seawater, just what we expect to happen as CO2 in the air is absorbed by the sea over the next several decades. Scientists have been looking at the effects of warming and acidification on plant, animals and even ecosystems in the lab, but there are serious limitations to that kind of study. Having a real-life lab, where animals and plants have lived their whole lives in Seawater-of-the-Future, makes a big difference.

The White Island Blitz was organised through the University of Otago Ocean Acidification Research Theme. Most of the 18 scientists were from University of Otago or from the University of Auckland, but there were participants from Australia, Belgium, and the UK as well. The scientific expedition took place in the first week of December, with fishing boats, divers, snorkelers, and a variety of equipment and samplers going out 48 km offshore to White Island for four days.

At the same time, a public engagement programme met wtih locals, including tourism operators, teachers, and schoolchildren to learn more about their marine environment. There were public workshops, teacher workshops, tourism workshops, and a school programme.