Roberson Lab is Funded Within $24M Investment in CO2 Removal Research

A diver measures macroalgae (Eucheuma) planted at a Roberson lab seaweed farm in Puerto Rico. Credit: Loretta Roberson

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have announced a $24 million investment in projects that tackle the climate crisis by researching marine carbon dioxide removal strategies, as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

In the largest climate investment in U.S. history, $14 million from the federal Inflation Reduction Act will go toward 10 projects that examine the efficacy and safety of various strategies for removing carbon from the atmosphere, such as enhancing ocean alkalinity or sinking seaweed. An additional $10 million in funding, provided by appropriations to NOAA for several programs, will support seven more marine CO2 removal research projects.

MBL Associate Scientist Loretta Roberson is an investigator on one of these projects, led by PI Andreas Andersson of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This project will investigate how seaweed farms in tropical and subtropical coastal environments may contribute to carbon capture and mitigate ocean acidification. Roberson is the PI of a tropical farm seaweed cultivation project with study sites in Florida, Belize and Puerto Rico.

In addition to Roberson’s seaweed/clam co-cultivation farm in Florida, this new project will explore carbon capture and ocean acidification mitigation at two seaweed farms in Okinawa, Japan. Co-culturing of seaweed with shellfish and corals at the study sites will offer opportunities to assess the additive benefits of these combined activities, which could strengthen ecosystem resilience. The study sites in Japan are larger than any seaweed farms in the United States, and studies here will help identify the risks and benefits of seaweed farming at scale.

hard clams
At the Roberson lab's seaweed farm in Florida, seaweed is co-cultivated with hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) provided by Two Docks Shellfish. Credit: Loretta Roberson

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  considers removing carbon dioxide and storing it on land, underground and in the ocean to be an essential approach to limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius (34.7° Fahrenheit). Despite the ocean’s large potential to store carbon, there are many unknowns about the scalability, effectiveness and cost of marine carbon dioxide removal strategies, and their possible social and ecological impacts. These projects will expand our understanding of various aspects of marine CO2 removal, and the potential associated benefits and risks. They will also provide the science needed to build policy and regulatory frameworks for testing and scaling up these technologies.