Memorial University
Canada Maple Leaf
Canada First Research Excellence
Fund 2022 candidate
Achieving a blue
ocean economy
Tackling climate change and developing mitigation solutions
DR. Rachel Chang
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?
Dr. Baiyu (Helen) Zhang
Canada Research Chair in Coastal Environmental Engineering
Memorial University

Transformational funding

There is evidence that the ocean’s ability to filter carbon from the atmosphere is changing. As a result, global climate goals are likely well off the mark. With support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, Dalhousie and its academic and industry partners will find solutions and make Canada a global leader in the science to avert climate change.

Dr. Zhang on research vessel
Dr. Zhang at sea on a research vessel.

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.

Taking action

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.”

Dr. Zhang and research team
Dr. Zhang and her research team in the lab at Memorial University.

Focus on the future

By collaborating with innovative research colleagues and key industry partners engaged in the Canada First Research Excellence Fund application, 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.”

NRPOP laboratory
NRPOP laboratory putting carbon removal science to work.

Collaborating to meet a critical need

With an ever-changing climate, with devastating impacts on people and communities, the research is increasingly critical.

“This project would facilitate scientific and technological practices to inform ocean industry policy, decision-making, management and education,” she notes.

“It could also promote the engagement of coastal impacted and vulnerable communities in understanding and implementing CDR and other climate change adaptation/mitigation solutions. This project could further benefit Canada through training the next generation of professionals with integrated in-demand skills.”

Transformational funding

Dalhousie University and its research partners L’Université du Québec à Rimouski, Université Laval and Memorial University are seeking support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund to ensure the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere is accounted for in global climate goals. Together, the universities are the world’s most productive ocean research team, capable of bringing the most sophisticated science to the Earth’s most pressing challenge.

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