11.09.2013 - Natural Sciences Sector

What we don’t know about the ocean could take our breath away

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is supporting the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, a global competition that challenges teams of engineers, scientists and innovators from all over the world to improve our understanding of ocean acidification.

Our oceans are currently in the midst of a silent crisis. Rising levels of atmospheric carbon are resulting in higher levels of acidity. The potential biological, ecological, biogeochemical and societal implications are staggering. The absorption of human CO2 emissions is already having a profound impact on ocean chemistry, impacting the health of shellfish, fisheries, coral reefs, other ecosystems and our very survival –half of the world’s oxygen comes from the ocean, along with many other vital ressources.

While ocean acidification is well documented in a few temperate ocean waters, little is known in high latitudes, coastal areas and the deep sea, and most current pH sensor technologies are too costly, imprecise, or unstable to allow for sufficient knowledge on the state of ocean acidification.

Providing a solution
The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is a challenge to create pH sensor technology that will affordably, accurately and efficiently measure ocean chemistry from its shallowest waters… to its deepest depths. Such breakthrough sensors are urgently needed for scientists, managers and industry to turn the tide on ocean acidification and begin healing our oceans. A competition to incentivize the creation of these sensors for the study and monitoring of ocean acidification’s impact on marine ecosystems and ocean health will drive industry forward by providing the data needed to take action and produce results.
The competition aims to have a broad impact that reaches far beyond new sensing technologies, by catalyzing ocean research, providing tools for the study and monitoring of the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life and ecosystems, providing support for policy makers and inspiring the public to engage in solving ocean acidification.

The competition was launched in San Francisco this September and will be comprised of four phases over 22 months. The first phase includes an Ocean Acidification Solutions Fair that will push teams to develop innovative solutions to ocean pH sensing and to educate the public about ocean acidification. During this phase, teams will be invited to register for the competition and submit supporting materials such as study results, diagrams, videos and prototypes.
The teams will then undertake lab trials, coastal trials and sea trials. The winners of the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE will be announced at the conclusion of the Sea Trials Phase.  

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