A Summer of Seaweed and Blue Carbon

Hello all! I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. For my CBE Fellowship, I am working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a large environmental non-profit headquartered in New York. I am working with their San Francisco office, and have been lucky enough to go to the office in-person a few times. The internship is hybrid, so I can also work from home when my tolerance for socializing is too low (the office has a running joke that we all need a re-socializing 101 course thanks to Covid). My official title is a Blue Carbon Research Intern, as I am focusing on blue carbon policy, specifically on the potential of including seaweeds and macroalgaes as blue carbon ecosystems. I am working with EDF’s Oceans team, under the supervision of Rod Fujita, Director of Research & Development of the Oceans Program.

In addition to my primary projects, I have gotten to sit in on some Oceans team and other high level meetings. These meetings do not directly correlate to my research, but Rod is kind enough to still send me invites because he knows that on top of learning the subject matter, a big part of this summer for me is getting the feel of how a large NGO operates, and whether or not I can see myself working at one in the future.

My first and primary project is creating a ‘roadmap’ document, that details how more countries can include seaweeds (both wild and farmed) into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs were created as a part of the Paris Climate Accords, and essentially represent what each country is planning on doing to combat climate change. Many countries have already included traditional blue carbon ecosystems (mangroves, salt marshes, seagrasses) into their NDCs for both their mitigation and adaptation value, but EDF is interested in adding seaweed to that core group of three. I will be researching the processes that countries go through when creating their NDCs, and conducting expert interviews with policy makers and scientists involved with blue carbon and NDCs.

This document from the Blue Carbon Initiative has been a lifesaver

My second project will be a collaborative project, working with two other summer interns at EDF. We are going to help Rod choose a pilot country where EDF can launch a seaweed aquaculture site. My two intern teammates (Marc and Alex) are more focused on the quantitative science of seaweeds, so they will be looking into countries that have EEZs with the ideal growing conditions that can support different species of seaweed. I will be choosing criteria that will help highlight countries that could benefit most from this project, and from including seaweed and other blue carbon into their NDCs. I’ll be looking at countries that have high marginal mitigation costs, low historical GHG emissions, and a need to develop different industries. We want to see if blue carbon/seaweed is a way to allow certain developing countries to meet their mitigation goals while still being able to develop and build their economies and infrastructures.

Looking forward to giving my next update, hopefully I’ll have some positive progress to report!

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