“Burke-o-Lator” Detecting Concerning Acidic Levels in Humboldt Bay

Joe Tyburczy of California Sea Grant Extension and HSU graduate student Eric LeBlanc recently deployed instruments during very low tides to measure pH levels and other environmental conditions in and near eelgrass beds in Humboldt Bay.

Joe Tyburczy of California Sea Grant Extension and HSU graduate student Eric LeBlanc deployed instruments last year during very low tides to measure pH levels and other environmental conditions in and near eelgrass beds in Humboldt Bay. [Image from HSU]

Press release from HSU:

The “Burke-o-Lator,” set up at the Hog Island Oyster Company’s hatchery on Humboldt Bay, examines ways seawater chemistry is being affected by ocean acidification. Unlike other oceanographic sensors that measure only acidity (pH), the Burke-o-Lator also collects information on seawater’s carbonate saturation state, which shows how difficult it is to build and maintain shell—directly related to the growth and development of shellfish. That data is made publicly available and streamed live at the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) website.

You can read more about the Burke-o-Lator here.

The installation of the Burke-o-Lator is part of a larger project that is being conducted by a research team that includes Humboldt State University professors Jeffrey Abell, Frank Shaughnessy, and Paul Bourdeau. They are being assisted by of host of HSU graduate and undergrad students who are gaining firsthand experience in this exciting research and the use of this state-of-the-art instrument.

“The initial data is interesting, and a bit concerning. Though water in the Bay is less acidic than the nearby open coast, the carbonate saturation is still frequently low enough to cause problems for juvenile oysters and larvae,” California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Joe Tyburczy. “Based on this data, the Hog Island hatchery has begun buffering the seawater they pump into their facility with sodium carbonate to increase the saturation state and pH, protecting their juvenile and larval oysters and helping them grow.”

Tyburczy’s team, which includes Humboldt State researchers, has deployed oceanographic instruments inside and outside of eelgrass beds and will analyze water samples with the Burke-o-Lator to understand the capacity of eelgrass to chemically modify seawater as it moves through eelgrass beds with the tidal cycles.

“Interestingly, preliminary data from other regions indicate that eelgrass may not be doing as much to boost pH and carbon saturation as expected based on prior work,” he says. “Once we are able to process our samples, we should get a better idea of how eelgrass in Humboldt Bay, one of the most extensive eelgrass beds on the West Coast, is affecting seawater chemistry and responding to changes that are predicted under future scenarios.”

Ocean acidification, which is directly related to an increase in human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, presents major challenges not only for aquaculture, but also for marine ecosystems around the world, says Tyburczy. That’s where the Burke-o-lator comes in.

“With continued monitoring and analysis, the instrument will give us insight into what is occurring in the open ocean and how that translates into the bay for the health of the ecosystem and the future of bivalve hatcheries in Humboldt Bay and beyond,” he says.

Humboldt State University faculty, graduate students, and other researchers have been training on the Burke-o-Lator, enabling them to process water samples for thesis work and other experiments.

“In this way, it has the potential to complement and enhance ongoing ocean acidification research including oceanographic cruises and experiments at Humboldt State’s Telonicher Marine Lab in Trinidad,” Tyburczy says.

Tyburczy led the development of this collaborative project with colleagues at Humboldt State University, Bodega Marine Laboratory, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Wiyot Tribe, and the Hog Island Oyster Company. This work is being funded by the California Ocean Protection Council and the CSUAgricultural Research Institute.

About California Sea Grant
NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.

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24 Comments
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Willie Caso-Mayhem
3 years ago

🕯That was interesting and good for them.

guest
guest
3 years ago

TO ALL OF YOU COMMENTERS WHO TALK SH*T ABOUT HSU, JOKES ON YOU.

Joe dirt
Joe dirt
3 years ago

From what I understand is most of the acidification of the ocean is created by the burning of fossil fuels with a small amount associated with fertilizer intrusion into the ocean

No Joke
No Joke
3 years ago

So, we can expect more problems with commercial oyster and crab fishing next year – now, what can we do about it so our fishermen can keep their families fed?

Joe dirt
Joe dirt
3 years ago
Reply to  No Joke

Yes everything that grows in the Shell Crustaceans crabs oysters clams are all going to have problems when they’re really small are going to have a hard time so there goes the commercial crabing and a lot of the Wild Crustaceans they’re going to be able to save the oysters and farm grown abalone for a while by neutralizing the acid in the water during their crucial growing time they are going to have a real hard time breathing in the wild the coral reefs around the world are taking a lot of damage the second largest living thing on the planet some people say that it is mostly due to the warming ocean temperatures

hmm
hmm
3 years ago
Reply to  No Joke

Urge politicians to enact regulation/law that will slow climate change. This will get much worse before it gets better.

Geoffrey A Davis
Geoffrey A Davis
3 years ago

Maybe just maybe the mad River should flow into the Humboldt Bay like nature intended

beel
beel
3 years ago

Woah, there. There’s no evidence that the Mad River was a tributary of Humboldt Bay. In 1855, a canal was cut to float logs in to the Bay.
https://www.northcoastjournal.com/humboldt/mad-river-lore/Content?oid=2129126

Bozo
Bozo
3 years ago
Reply to  beel

‘Modern geological consensus’ is that (long long ago) Humboldt Bay was
formed by local rivers… now the Eel and Mad. Eel was cut off by the uplift of Table Bluff.
Mad River then shifted north and and drained to the ocean.

Yes, later on a canal was cut to send logs to Humboldt Bay… but the volume of silt carried to the
bay filled in around the docks… (causing alarm) and the cut off was abandoned.

Thirdeye
Thirdeye
3 years ago
Reply to  Bozo

The Mad used to flow through the Little River drainage and has been diverted south towards the bottoms by uplift between McKinleyville and Trinidad. Humboldt Bay is a local downwarp feature that fills with sediment from the Elk River, Freshwater Creek, Jacoby Creek, and some smaller streams. No evidence of sediment from a river on the scale of the Eel or the Mad.

Industrial Disease
3 years ago

Where can we see the actual pH levels? The ground water in our area has a naturally low pH.

BC
BC
3 years ago

They need to test after the rain and run off have dissipated. Test like in July and see what the levels are. This happens every year.

Guest
Guest
3 years ago
Reply to  BC

All I really know about this is I test the surface water that I use for drinking and is is alway almost zero for any mineral content at all except for low levels of magnesium.

zoltan
3 years ago

Thin shells in crabs.

Fish
Fish
3 years ago

Indicator species?or?

Faro
Faro
3 years ago

The most concerning thing is how acidification is going to affect phytoplankton and krill. If they can’t reproduce then the entire ocean food chain will collapse.

Doctor Doom
Doctor Doom
3 years ago

They are predicting a El Nino ocean currents this year along with lower than ever Arctic sea ice it could be the first years of a Blue Water event many Tipping Point can fall very quickly after this event happens some scientists say
Ability to grow food in many areas can be almost impossible

Mr. Tambourine Man
Mr. Tambourine Man
3 years ago

I love the careful cataloguing of the collapse of the biosphere. This will all be valuable when the new Nuremberg trials begin.

Willie Caso-Mayhem
3 years ago

🕯Wow all really good questions?

stuber
stuber
3 years ago

Here’s an answer. Container ships bringing our clothes and so much else, burn the highest sulfur containing fuel there is. Make our own stuff, no acid in the water. they burn 270,000,000 tons a year. Any more question?

Dock Rat
Dock Rat
3 years ago

Measurements are taken continuously.

Also, the cause is not necessarily local. It is global. It was detected initially in the Pacific near Asia. Basically there’s a massive carbon sink slowly spreading across the Pacific. It has been forecasted to be here in the next year or two. It’s here early.

Already causing problems in the Northwest for awhile now, and will get worse. Pacific oysters haven’t successfully reproduced in the wild on the West Coast since 2004.

https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts-education-resources/ocean-acidification

https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/ocean-acidification

Prof. Quiz
Prof. Quiz
3 years ago

“Ocean acidification, which is directly related to an increase in human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, presents major challenges not only for aquaculture, but also for marine ecosystems around the world, says Tyburczy. That’s where the Burke-o-lator comes in.”

Well guess who’s on GRANT MONEY?

Why is it NO ONE considers underwater volcanoes as a contributing factor? Because it doesn’t fit the narrative!

https://sciencestruck.com/underwater-volcano-facts

JMHO

shak
shak
3 years ago
Reply to  Prof. Quiz

👍
I love inconvenient FACTS.

Unknown
Unknown
3 years ago

Who cares what the water is doing in Humboldt Bay? The whole place is shortly to become massively radioactive as the nuke waste ponds flood from rising water. Good by Humboldt!