OLIvOA at international Ocean Acidification conference


Being home for only some weeks after our Hawai’ian adventure, I had to pack my bags again by the end of April. This time, I would travel entirely to the opposite end of the world, to the Tasmanian capital of Hobart (Australia). A colleague of mine, Dr. Andrew Lenton, of the Australian research institute CSIRO, had asked me to come and give a talk at the Fourth International Symposium on The Ocean in a High-CO2 World. Andrew works with large-scale biogeochemical models and because we knew each other from the climate mitigation research community, he told me this symposium would be the perfect stage to give a presentation on how olivine could be used against ocean acidification. I did not have to think too long before I accepted. Of course I wanted to be a week long among the greatest minds involved in researching the ocean’s future trends !

The entire conference was a big success. Apart from bringing together hundreds of scientists from all over the world, the symposium comprised a public townhall meeting, in which climate change and ocean acidification was explained to the general public. This was a very special experience, as the plenary hall filled up to the rim with “normal” people, who came to listen to scientists (also known as “not so normal people”), doing their best to deliver an interesting, yet accessible story. The turnout was enormous, and the questions were both plentiful and valid. I for one had the impression that people were not being told by your (stereo)typical scientist about climate change, but rather educated and informed on a voluntary basis, with genuine interest on both sides.

Walking among these researchers who had dedicated the last decade(s) of their careers to researching the state of the ocean and listening to the talks in the beginning of the week, the main message appeared grim: “We are facing unprecedented rates of warming and acidification, on top of the environmental pressures which have been going on for almost just as long: pollution and over-fishing.” However, as the week took shape, I managed to talk to many of these great researchers, hailing from many different sub-disciplines, becoming more and more confident that my presentation was going to fit in very nicely. It felt a bit odd, though. It was almost missionary, to bring this message of hope against Ocean Acidification. Sure, our experiments were done in the laboratory or in simplified systems, but still…the results were so consistent and the implications so compelling, that I felt very excited to present them. Finally…the hour had come to bring my work to the stage. On the one-but-last day of the conference, I stepped up unto the dais and gave my presentation, which was well received, I might add. Apart from some nice questions right after the presentation, I received many positive reactions. Also, people seemed very much surprised that there is a possibility for remediation at all, even though research into this subject is still very preliminary. To my surprise, the attention for my presentation even spread further than the conference. I was contacted by the science journal, New Scientist, to comment on the work we are doing with olivine against ocean acidification. And by the next week, the interview appeared in their new issue. Very nice to have the research receive such attention !



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