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  • Writer's pictureHeather Almeda

Burke-o-Lator allows measurement of multiple parameters of Ocean Acidification in real time

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Ocean acidification is the result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and is a growing threat to our oceans. Organisms living in calcium carbonate homes, such as corals and shellfish are among the most vulnerable. Tracking ocean acidification is complex and requires more information than simply sampling ocean pH. The Hakai Institute's Quadra Island field station in British Columbia houses one of the world’s most innovative systems to measure OA, the Burke-o-lator

“This is a really exciting piece of equipment. It’s the first of its kind in Canada,” says chemical oceanographer and OA Steering Committee member Wiley Evans.

Hakai chemical oceanographer Wiley Evans (right) and Oregon State professor Burke Hales (left) install Canada’s first Burke-o-Lator machine for measuring ocean acidification in the waters off Quadra Island, British Columbia. The beer bottles on the floor, after being cleaned, are used to store water samples from other locations before testing. Photo by Josh Silberg

The inventor of the Burke-o-Lator, Oregon State University professor Burke Hales is a pioneer in the field of ocean carbon cycles. The photo above was taken when Hales traveled to Hakai’s Quadra Island Field Station in 2016 to help install his namesake machine, part of a growing network of ocean acidification monitoring sites within Canada.

The Burke-o-Lator can measure multiple parameters of ocean acidification simultaneously making it a revolutionary monitoring tool. The Burke-o-Lator can measure ocean pH, how much carbon dioxide gas is dissolved in the seawater, the total amount of carbon from non-organic sources as well as the concentration of the mineral aragonite which is critical to shell formation for many marine species . All these factors may affect shellfish growth, survival and reproduction - but many traditional monitoring systems are only able to measure one parameter.

“The really exciting thing is that we can now monitor all of these ocean conditions in real time,” says Evans.

On the east coast, a Burke-o-Lator machine collects Ocean Acidification data in the Passamaquoddy Bay at the St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick.

Real-time data from the Canadian east-coast and west-coast Burke-o-Lators may be found at

This article was adapted from an article by Josh Silberg of the Hakai Institute by Heather Almeda. 2018.



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