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Sydney Dunigan

Ocean Acidification Lab


AP Environmental Science Heritage High School
Collaborator:
Taylor Cielo
Introduction:
Within the past 300 years, the acidity of the oceans pH is estimated to have
increased from 8.2 to 8.1, or a 26% increase in acidity. 26% increase is enough to hinder
the balance of the ocean; the ocean must remain at a specific level of chemicals and pH
level in order to support the marine life. If this rise persists, it could end an
overwhelming loss of biodiversity in oceans ecosystems. Through this experiment, the
matter of carbon dioxide raising or decreasing the acidity of the ocean will be addressed.
According to NASA, The ocean would continue to soak up more and more carbon dioxide
until global warming heated the ocean enough to slow down ocean circulation. Water
trapped at the surface would become saturated, at which point, the ocean would slow its
carbon uptake. Buffering is the hope for the ocean, a hope that it can resist the change
in acidity and stop soaking up the harmful CO2.
Problem: How does carbon dioxide affect the pH of water?
Hypothesis: If carbon dioxide is added to the water, the pH of the water will then lower,
thus, an acidic ocean.
Parts of the Experiment:
Control Group: The 10 mL of distilled water is the control group.
Experimental Group: The 10 mL of ocean water is the experimental group.
Independent Variable: The type of water (ocean or distilled) used is the
independent variable.
Dependent Variable: The color of the universal indicator is the dependent
variable, or the pH.
Controlled Variables: The materials, the room temperature, the amount of water
poured into each graduated cylinder, and the amount of carbon dioxide and
universal indicator added to the water are the controlled variables.
Materials:

Two test tubes


Graduated cylinder
Two plastic pipets
Universal indicator
Salt water
Distilled water
One straw

Sydney Dunigan

Methods:

Put 1ml of universal indicator into 10 ml of ocean water, record the pH


Put 1 ml of universal indicator into 10 ml of distilled water, record the pH
Using a straw, slowly breathe into the test tubes, record the time it takes for the
color to change
Add 1g of crushed CaCO3 to each test tube, record the results

Data: Below are the stages of the ocean water test tubes:
Ocean
Water
pH Start
5
Time for pH to 15
change
seconds
pH End
6
pH with CaCO3 8

Distilled
Water
6
7
seconds
4
7

Data Analysis:

Ocean water changed color slower than the distilled water, this was because of a
buffering system within the ocean water
When calcium carbonate, a base, was added to the ocean water, the solution
turned from a dark orange to yellow-green, to blue.
When calcium carbonate was added to the distilled water, the solution turned from
yellow to green.

Conclusion:
The pH of the ocean is on average, recently, about 8.1. The acidity of the ocean water
that we used was about a 5, but a lot of different elements could have accounted for
this. For instance, we had clean water that was added to with salt. In an actual ocean,
there are many bacteria and germs in the water, which could very well raise the pH to be
basic. Or, materials could have been contaminated previous to the lab. The ocean water
showed a greater pH change by the end of the experiment. It rose from a 5 to a 6 when
carbon dioxide was added to it, and then spiked to an 8, which is not the expected
outcome I predicted. Ideally, the starting pH of the ocean water would be close to that
of the actual ocean. However, the distilled water changed in a different way, first
decreasing and then spiking. Whether or not this experiment is a valid way to measure
the effects of carbon in the water, the ending pH were relatively similar. This could lead
one to believe that yes, carbon affects ocean water, but not because it contains salt. It

Sydney Dunigan

affects distilled water as well, giving both of them similar levels of pH. When calcium
carbonate was added to the water, both samples became more basic. One faster than
the other, but they still ended up around the same level. The ocean water rose from a 6
to an 8, and the distilled from a 4 to a 7. Both of these pH levels were close to that of our
oceans, an outcome one could easily predict, thus the point of the experiment.
Citations:
The Power of PH: Changing Ocean Chemistry. N.p.: Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation,
2010. PDF. 2015 Jan. 28
Riebeek, Holli. "The Ocean's Carbon Balance : Feature Articles." The Ocean's Carbon
Balance : Feature Articles. Earth Observatory, NASA, 30 June 2008. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.