Hashan Niroshana Kokuhennadige is a current Commonwealth Scholar from Sri Lanka studying for a PhD in Ocean and Earth Sciences with a focus on Marine Biogeochemistry at the University of Southampton. Looking back on World Oceans Day last month, Hashan shares some insights on his research and its development impact, and considers what World Oceans Day means to him.

World Oceans Day is a moment to contemplate the important role that our oceans play, the threats they face, and the actions needed to protect them. As a marine educator and researcher in the field of chemical oceanography, this day is especially relevant to me.

Commonwealth Scholar (Hashan) in laboratory using equipment for experiments on seawater

Hashan at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton

Carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities greatly affects our atmosphere and oceans, and leads to global warming and climate change. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has significantly increased since the industrial revolution from the global average value of 280 ppm (parts per million) to the current value of 417.07 ppm (May 2020) and it continues to rise. In my study, carbon fluxes and processes in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are studied using stable carbon isotopes in marine samples to understand how the oceans react to increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, one of the crucial issues our oceans are dealing with at the present time.

Understanding the effects that CO2 emissions have on marine ecology and productivity will lead to evidence-based policy interventions, strengthening the relevant policies to reduce man-made CO2 emission and also to reduce subsequent ocean acidification. This understanding will also lead to the sustainable management of marine resources and marine ecosystems in an island nation like Sri Lanka while addressing SDG 13 (Climate action) and SDG 14 (Life below water), since the tangible and intangible goods, and services provided by oceans make a great contribution to the country’s economic development. I am expecting to disseminate the knowledge and experience I will have gained from this study among all stakeholder parties through various platforms to achieve the aforementioned goals, educate students in the university system and develop them as skilled young marine scientists to work to the betterment of our oceans.

Being a Commonwealth Scholar has opened up many avenues and given me the opportunity to learn, and expand my knowledge and skills in ocean science from experts in the field. This experience has inspired my interest  in working on oceans to save our planet and make it a better place for our future.