We need to understand how energy, gases and particles are exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean. It’s not a simple process and it goes both directions. And the ultimate question is, how do they affect climate?
The Earth is teetering toward climate crisis. The ocean, more than anything, is helping to keep the balance. But emerging science shows the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon and regulate temperatures is changing in ways we don’t understand. It is a change that is not accounted for in global climate targets. It’s a risk we can no longer afford to take. The time has come to transform climate action.
Memorial University engineer, Dr. Baiyu (Helen) Zhang, and her team are looking deep into one of the richest living laboratories in the world to find answers to the global climate crisis.
Based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, the award-winning researcher is part of an interdisciplinary team examining the deep North Atlantic and its essential role in the ocean carbon cycle and ocean-based climate change mitigation.
“We want to adopt environmental engineering tools for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the Atlantic Ocean,” explains Dr. Zhang.
She and her team aim to develop new technologies for the capture and conversion of carbon using marine algae and from ocean industries with a goal of providing scientific evidence for policies and decision-makers.
“The ocean could play a key role in climate adaptation and mitigation solutions,” says Dr. Zhang. “It is an effective carbon dioxide sink that has absorbed approximately 40 per cent of fossil fuel emissions over the industrial era. Climate change has been changing weather patterns, disrupting the normal balance of nature and posing many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth. Conducting ocean-based CDR thus becomes essential to our communities and all Canadians.”
By collaborating with innovative research colleagues and key industry partners engaged in the Transforming Climate Action research program, Dr. Zhang believes the ocean’s ability to provide solutions to mitigate climate change can be discovered and put into action. The team includes researchers from varied disciplines such as civil and process engineering, chemistry, ocean science and earth science. Canada's Ocean Supercluster is also facilitating research partnership development and future technology transfer.
It’s a true team effort, says Dr. Zhang, who is the founder of Memorial University’s Coastal Environmental Laboratory, facilitating the development of novel and environmentally friendly bio-products. She is also a key researcher with Memorial’s Northern Region Persistent Organic Pollution (NRPOP) Control Laboratory, tackling the occurrence, transport, fate, impact and mitigation of emerging marine and coastal contaminants.
“In the past years, I have been trying to integrate coastal environmental engineering with the key ocean industrial sectors to drive our ocean economies to be more sustainable under a changing climate,” she notes.
“I am pretty excited that my expertise in developing coastal environmental biotechnologies for CDR, identifying carbon point source emissions and treating ocean industry-related waste streams fits well with the CFREF project scope. I am also very interested in working with peers in such a prestigious team and contributing to the coastal communities’ work.”
Transforming Climate Action will bring together more than 170 researchers at Dalhousie and its academic partners to embark on the most intensive investigation into the ocean’s role in climate change ever undertaken. It will make Canada a global leader in climate science, innovation, and solutions by putting the ocean front and centre in the fight against a warming planet.Learn more