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California Coastal Trail

Scripps WavepHOx: Science Meets Adventure

"Many people think that scientists are just geeks who like staring at beakers in the lab. We're not," Phil Bresnahan wrote on his blog in 2013. "At least we're not just that... We're (grown-up?) kids who love exploring. We like surfing, rock climbing, hiking, biking, running, sailing, diving, paddling, and, most importantly, learning about the world around us."

So what's a way to combine all of that when you're studying the health of our oceans? For Bresnahan, a PhD student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, it has meant developing a tool that attaches it to a paddleboard to measure critical ocean elements and using it to engage the public in ocean sciences. Meet "SUP, Science"

SUPing, or Stand Up Paddleboarding, has seen a resurgence over the past several years and is a sport that people of all ages can participate in. Bresnahan has taken around 100 people, mainly students, out on the water through the program. "People’s faces really light up when you say that I’m a scientist and I’m doing research right now, and it looks like you’re just having a good time out on the stand-up paddleboard," he told a campus publication.

That research is being conducted using the WavepHOx, named so because the work being done in the waves, as well as measuring and mapping pH and oxygen levels in the water (see how it works in the above video). Bresnahan's looking at ocean acidity and how it effects local ecosystems. "Every time we drive, or use more energy, even the food choices we make that are less efficient, can cause more carbon dioxide to be ejected into the atmosphere," he explained in a video. But why is that important? "A quarter of the carbon dioxide we put in the atmosphere ends up dissolving in sea water."

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