Achieving a blue ocean economy
Tackling climate change and developing mitigation solutions
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“Climate change has been changing weather patterns, disrupting the normal balance of our nature and posing many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth. Conducting ocean-based carbon dioxide removal thus becomes essential to our communities and all Canadians.”
Baiyu (Helen) Zhang
Canada Research Chair in Coastal Environmental Engineering, Memorial University
Memorial University

Transforming climate action

An ocean-first approach

Emerging science reveals the ocean's ability to absorb CO2 and regulate temperatures is changing in ways we don’t understand. These critical shifts are not accounted for in climate targets – a risk we can no longer take. With support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, Dalhousie is leading an ocean-first approach to tackle climate change and equipping Canada with the knowledge, innovations, and opportunities to secure a positive climate future.

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Dr. Zhang on research vessel
Dr. Zhang at sea on a research vessel.

Memorial University engineer, Dr. Baiyu (Helen) Zhang, and her team are looking deep into one of the richest living laboratories in the world to find answers to the global climate crisis.

Based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, the award-winning researcher is part of an interdisciplinary team examining the deep North Atlantic and its essential role in the ocean carbon cycle and ocean-based climate change mitigation.

“We want to adopt environmental engineering tools for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the Atlantic Ocean,” explains Dr. Zhang.

Taking action

She and her team aim to develop new technologies for the capture and conversion of carbon using marine algae and from ocean industries with a goal of providing scientific evidence for policies and decision-makers.

“The ocean could play a key role in climate adaptation and mitigation solutions,” says Dr. Zhang. “It is an effective carbon dioxide sink that has absorbed approximately 40 per cent of fossil fuel emissions over the industrial era. Climate change has been changing weather patterns, disrupting the normal balance of nature and posing many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth. Conducting ocean-based CDR thus becomes essential to our communities and all Canadians.”

Dr. Zhang and research team
Dr. Zhang and her research team in the lab at Memorial University.

Focus on the future

By collaborating with innovative research colleagues and key industry partners engaged in the Transforming Climate Action research program, Dr. Zhang believes the ocean’s ability to provide solutions to mitigate climate change can be discovered and put into action. The team includes researchers from varied disciplines such as civil and process engineering, chemistry, ocean science and earth science. Canada's Ocean Supercluster is also facilitating research partnership development and future technology transfer.

It’s a true team effort, says Dr. Zhang, who is the founder of Memorial University’s Coastal Environmental Laboratory, facilitating the development of novel and environmentally friendly bio-products. She is also a key researcher with Memorial’s Northern Region Persistent Organic Pollution (NRPOP) Control Laboratory, tackling the occurrence, transport, fate, impact and mitigation of emerging marine and coastal contaminants.

“In the past years, I have been trying to integrate coastal environmental engineering with the key ocean industrial sectors to drive our ocean economies to be more sustainable under a changing climate,” she notes.

“I am pretty excited that my expertise in developing coastal environmental biotechnologies for CDR, identifying carbon point source emissions and treating ocean industry-related waste streams fits well with the CFREF project scope. I am also very interested in working with peers in such a prestigious team and contributing to the coastal communities’ work.”

NRPOP laboratory
NRPOP laboratory putting carbon removal science to work.

Collaborating to meet a critical need

With an ever-changing climate, with devastating impacts on people and communities, the research is increasingly critical.

“This project would facilitate scientific and technological practices to inform ocean industry policy, decision-making, management and education,” she notes.

“It could also promote the engagement of coastal impacted and vulnerable communities in understanding and implementing CDR and other climate change adaptation/mitigation solutions. This project could further benefit Canada through training the next generation of professionals with integrated in-demand skills.”

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