We conclude the fall 2019 course — Humans and the Ever-Changing Coast — in an addendum expanded to four weeks. What happens in the ocean as humans perform the “experiment” of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere? We begin with an overview of how life extracted huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, and then buried some of it in muddy banks over many millions of years. This process changed the planet, making an oxygen-rich atmosphere that made possible our course’s iconic duo from yesteryear: Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne. They arrive to withdraw buried carbon from the bank at industrial scale, making machines go and saving whales, but also releasing carbon dioxide to upshift the blue planet into more of a greenhouse. We’ll emphasize how this release can make the seas warm, rise, and sour — changing the comfort level for its various inhabitants — and discuss how such effects are predicted, tested, and documented. These topics supplement the material covered in the fall 2019 course, though it is not a prerequisite.
Instructor Larry Mayer was a professor of oceanography at the University of Maine. He taught at the Darling Marine Center and elsewhere, on topics similar to this course, in pre-K to senior college formats. Larry’s research field is marine biogeochemistry, which means that he wanders among the fields of oceanography, biology, geology and chemistry. He assists with citizen science efforts in lakes and estuaries.
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