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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI to host lecture series on ‘State of Our Oceans’ beginning Feb. 8

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

First talk to examine impact of ocean acidification

KINGSTON, R.I. – January 28, 2011 – As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island will host an eight-part lecture series exploring recent advances in understanding the ocean environment, including discussions of ocean exploration, threatened habitats, ocean policy, climate change, and oceans and human health.

All events in the “State of Our Oceans” lecture series are on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium on the URI Kingston campus. The programs are free and open to the public. The lectures also will be streamed on URI Live!

The first lecture, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, will feature three scientists discussing how ocean acidification is affecting marine ecosystems. The speakers – Brad Seibel, URI associate professor of biological sciences, Andrew Dickson, professor of marine chemistry at the University of California at San Diego, and Anne Cohen, a research specialist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution – will describe the phenomenon of ocean acidification and share their insights on how marine organisms are adapting to it.

According to Seibel, not only is the global climate system being affected by increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but it is also changing the basic chemistry of the ocean. The increasing acidity of the marine ecosystem may affect the ability of corals, crustaceans and mollusks to build their shells and calcified structures, and it is causing physiological impairments to some squids and other species.

In their panel discussion, the scientists will describe the biological responses of marine organisms to these extreme environmental conditions and share how their research is helping to predict how coral reefs will respond to increasing ocean acidification.

The lecture series is sponsored by the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, with individual lectures supported by the URI College of Arts & Sciences, the Harrington School of Communication, and Rhode Island Sea Grant. The series is coordinated by Professors Steven D’Hondt, Arthur Spivack and Judith Swift, and Sunshine Menezes, director of the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting.

The rest of the lectures are as follows:

Feb. 15 – Margaret Leinen, associate provost of marine and environmental initiatives at Florida Atlantic University, on “Should We Engineer the Climate?”
Mar. 1 – Ed Laws, chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Louisiana State University, on “Oceans and Human Health: The Urgent Need for Sustainable Resource Management.”
Mar. 8 – Christopher Reddy, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, on “Communicating Science: Lessons Learned from an Environmental Crisis.”
March 29 – Robert Ballard, URI professor of oceanography, on “The Last Great Frontier.”
Apr. 5 – Norbert Wu, independent filmmaker and photographer of the marine environment, on “Exploring the World’s Notable and Threatened Underwater habitats.”
Apr. 12 – Deborah Kelley, professor of marine geology and geophysics at the University of Washington, on “Measuring Change Across the Global Ocean.”
Apr. 26 – Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. senator, on “Steering a Course Toward a National Ocean Policy.”

For more information about the lecture series, visit www.uri.edu/vetlesen or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or debg@uri.edu.