Designing a Framework for Responsible Research: Sinking Seaweed for CO2 Proposal

Ocean Visions and its partner the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) announce a call for self-nominations from scientists, engineers, technologists, entrepreneurs, environmental managers, conservationists, and other relevant actors to join a working group to develop a framework for responsible research regarding the fate and environmental impacts of sinking marine biomass (seaweed) to the deep ocean for carbon dioxide removal.

Carbon dioxide removal is now a globally recognized requirement alongside emissions reductions to stop, and eventually reverse, the climate emergency. Ocean-based pathways of carbon dioxide removal, while nascent, are quickly gaining attention as a diverse community of interests seeks to better determine whether ocean-based carbon removal pathways can contribute to meaningful carbon dioxide removal in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

To accelerate the research, development, and testing of technologies in order to make well-informed decisions, Ocean Visions recently engaged a global network of experts in the design of technology road maps for ocean-based carbon dioxide removal pathways.

One of the ocean-based pathways considered in these road maps, and receiving attention well beyond, is the intentional sinking of seaweed to sequester the carbon at the bottom of the ocean (for example, see this article). Yet little is known about the scale and permanence of carbon sequestration, and the environmental impacts, of intentionally sinking seaweed.

Ocean Visions and MBARI are pleased to advance progress on one of the first-order priorities identified in the road maps: design of a globally applicable research framework to improve knowledge about the CO2 fate and environmental impacts of intentionally sinking seaweed biomass to the deep ocean for the purposes of long-term carbon sequestration.

Working Group Terms of Reference:

We are taking nominations to assemble a team of ~20 people to produce, through facilitated conversations:

  1. An asset inventory of all existing and near-term future resources available to support studies, including but not limited to:
    • Deep-sea observatories amenable to experimental studies (i.e., will not impact long-term ecological studies)
    • Needed experimental equipment
    • Remotely operated, autonomous, and human-operated vehicles
    • So-called “natural laboratories” that can provide important analogs to intentional sinking of macroalgae
  2. Design of template experiments (considering resources in #1) to answer questions regarding:
    • Fate of the carbon embedded in the seaweed, including the potential for remineralization or burial
    • Potential environmental impacts on deep-sea species and habitats
    • Critical deposition thresholds (e.g., x kg of seaweed deposited per square kilometer of seafloor) that trigger ecosystem changes
  3. Provide cost estimates for the various experimental designs described in #2 that will produce actionable information for policy makers.

Specific Working Group Products/Outcomes:

  1. Develop and publish an online open asset inventory to highlight resources available to study this question.
  1. Design and publish template model experiments, along with their estimated costs. These model experiments will be made openly available so that they can be utilized and adapted by the global scientific community, including the public and philanthropic funding sources who may support the research.

Selection and Logistics 
Working group members will be selected to provide a balanced representation of relevant expertise with due consideration of expertise, experience, geographical, and gender diversity. We anticipate a commitment of 8-10 hours per month for six months in virtual meetings. Working group members will be paid an honorarium for their services.

The deadline for submitting self-nominations is August 22, 2021


If you encounter technical difficulties with the application form or have any specific questions, please contact Program Lead Dr. Catherine Jadot (

About Ocean Visions
Ocean Visions is a consortium of leading US oceanographic and academic institutions working in partnership with diverse members of the private sector to catalyze science and engineering research and innovation into real-world applications and scalable solutions to address the growing crisis in our oceans and climate.

The mission of the Ocean Visions Network is to identify, evaluate, develop, test, demonstrate, and ultimately deploy equitable, durable, and scalable solutions to the ocean’s most pressing environmental challenges. The Network brings together diverse institutions and sectors with a common interest in ocean solutions.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) ( was founded by David Packard as an advanced center for ocean research and technology development. MBARI strives to address important problems in ocean science through the development of better instruments, systems, and methods for ocean exploration and research. MBARI emphasizes teamwork between scientists, engineers, and marine operations to develop, test, and deploy instruments ROVs, AUVs, and other ocean assets from its three ships.