Why Should I study the Ocean?

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Why Should I Study the Ocean?
We all came from the sea. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.
-- John F. Kennedy: 35th President of the United States, Navy veteran, avid sailor

A Global Map of Human Impacts to Marine Ecosystems
map courtesy of benjamin halpern of the national center for ecological analysis and synthesis

Estimated human impact on the ecosystems of the global ocean. Over 40% of the world's oceans are heavily affected by human activities, and few, if any, areas remain untouched.

Map courtesy of Benjamin Halpern of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara.

Planet Ocean...

  • 72% of Earth’s surface is covered in water

  • The ocean strongly influences weather patterns

  • The average depth of our ocean is two miles; it supports life at every level

  • Changes in the tropical Pacific can affect snowfall in Seattle, hurricane season in the Atlantic, and more

  • While no one knows for sure, it is likely that most of our planet’s biodiversity exists in the ocean

  • The Gulf Stream moves 10,000 times as much water as the Mississippi River

  • It influences the hydrological cycle

    • Almost all the water that falls on land evaporates from the ocean

    • Water from the ocean falls as rain

    • Water from the ocean influences weather

Uncharted Waters …

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates on a budget for ocean exploration that is less than 1% of NASA’s budget

  • We have better maps of Mars than we do of our ocean floor

  • The U.S. controls the surrounding waters out to 200 miles beyond our terrestrial borders, yet most of this exclusive economic zone is unexplored

Discoveries within Our Lifetimes…

  • 1960: the Trieste carries two humans to the deepest point in the ocean

  • 1973: humans first visit the mid-ocean ridge, the earth's largest geologic feature

  • 1977: Alvin carries scientists to observe deep ocean hydrothermal vents for the first time. Among their discoveries is the fact that life can be supported at the bottom of the ocean even without sunlight through chemosynthesis

Supporting Human Life…

  • Ocean currents stabilize Earth’s temperatures, moving heat from the Equator to the Poles

  • The oceans absorb one third of carbon dioxide generated by humans

  • Fish accounts for 25% of animal protein consumed by humans

  • Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from the oceans

Modern Civilization and the Ocean…

Harmful Human Actions…

  • Most fisheries are becoming overfished. The loss of fish changes the marine food webs. Changing food webs affect other life and processes in the sea

  • The weight of garbage that is dumped into the ocean is three times the weight of fish caught

  • As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, they are becoming more acidic, threatening corals, shellfish and plankton – the base of the marine food chain

  • Sea level is expected to rise almost a meter this century, harming coastal wetlands and forcing human evacuations from low lying island nations

  • The ocean is our only hope for the future, andit may be our only source of future of materials and food.

So why should you study the ocean?

You can’t afford not to. The ocean has a daily impact on your life, and you on it.

  1. Now that you have read a few ideas about why we should study the ocean, write a paragraph (five to seven sentences) summarizing why you think it is important to study the ocean.

  1. Explain how the ocean will impact your life in your future career path. (Think about what you want to be when you grow up; think about how the ocean and the health of the ocean could impact your life when you are in that profession).

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