Jon White – From the President’s Office: 10-10-2016

2016-10-11T16:36:01+00:00 October 11, 2016|

The past week provided me with many vastly different aspects of water. Sadly, the storm surge, rain, and wind from Hurricane Matthew took lives and wreaked extensive damage on Haiti, the Bahamas, and the U.S. East Coast. It was another not-so-gentle reminder of the amazing and sometimes terrifying power of our ocean and the weather it influences. I monitored Hurricane Matthew from San Francisco, where I spoke at an intriguing conference – Water and Long Term Value 2. There is growing concern worldwide regarding the quality, availability, and effect of water on ecosystems and human communities. This unease must extend to the ocean — the source and destination of all water on our planet — since anything having to do with water has to do with the ocean.

I took advantage of the opportunity to visit two of our member institutions: San Francisco State University’s Romberg Tiburon Center (RTC)  and UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML). RTC occupies a former Navy Base (the Navy Net Depot) on the picturesque northern coast of the San Francisco Bay. It provides exceptional hands-on instruction to undergraduate and graduate students and has a unique partnership with NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves program and the Smithsonian Institute for Environmental Research. I learned about their long-term sea grass research, which includes using eel grass to mitigate the harmful effects of ocean acidification in coastal and estuarine waters (see photo). 

Further up the coast in a zone of enhanced upwelling, the (gorgeous) BML, part of the UC Davis Coastal Marine Sciences Institute (CSMI), conducts residential undergraduate programs as well as several graduate and research programs. UC Davis is one of the world’s leading agricultural institutions, so it is no surprise that pioneering aquaculture and other research related to the ocean and food security is ongoing at Bodega and CSMI. I was introduced to a particularly interesting program to save the endangered white abalone (Did you know that there are only 2,000 left in their natural habitat in southern California?). BML’s captive breeding program has over 10,000 abalone, and they are planning pilot projects to repopulate their original habitat. (Note the picture of me and the cutest three-year-old abalone you ever saw).

From devastation to habitat salvation, ocean waters and humanity are interrelated in ways that we don’t even begin to appreciate on most days. We will likely never cease to threaten each other from time to time, but I believe that through leadership, partnership, and scholarship, we can drastically reduce the threats on both ends in the days ahead.

RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.); M.S.
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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