Stanford grant program to fuel ‘bold, creative solutions’ to climate change, ocean conservation

Responsible Seafood Advocate

Big Ideas for Oceans grants to support research addressing climate change and ocean conservation

ocean conservation
The Big Ideas for Oceans grants will support research designed to help address climate change and advance ocean conservation. Photo by Rob Dunbar.

The Stanford Oceans Department and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment have jointly launched a new grant program to support research designed to help address climate change and advance ocean conservation.

The inaugural Big Ideas for Oceans awards will enable research teams to pursue interdisciplinary ocean and coastal projects that address the impacts of environmental change in the Bay Area and beyond.

“Unlike other funding programs, which can be safe but slow, Big Ideas for Oceans grants support unconstrained creativity and high-risk, potentially high-reward projects that foster interdisciplinary collaborations across the university,” said Fiorenza Micheli, chair of the Oceans Department in the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions. “Time is of the essence. We have to pursue bold, creative solutions – even though some might fail.”

The annual program, which awarded its first round of seven grants in March 2023, prioritizes projects that focus on climate adaptation and mitigation, and those involving marine mammals, coral reefs, marine protected areas and deep ocean environments in what’s known as the twilight zone.

Awardees will explore how natural processes and marine life – spanning tiny drifting organisms known as plankton to vast coral colonies and migrating whales – help regulate the climate and could play a role in mitigation strategies.

One award recipient is partnering with the San Francisco Estuary Institute to create a system for predicting future harmful algal blooms. Using a machine learning algorithm, they will combine historical data sets from numerical models, field measurements and satellites to assess the likelihood of blooms in different regions of the bay and at desired times.

Another team will assess how adding large amounts of alkaline substances impacts the ocean and whether this approach can be scaled safely to sequester more carbon dioxide.

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