Buoy Days

Thursday and Friday, August 19–20, 2021 • 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Gallery 5

Note: Free for members and donors, only a membership card and ID required for entry.

Have you ever wondered how oceanic buoys operate and what they measure, or what critters cling to their undersides? Join marine scientists, technicians, and educators as they pull a one-ton NOAA carbon dioxide (CO2)  buoy out of the water and explore its scientific instruments and the organisms that have colonized the buoy bottom.

At this two-day, in-person annual event, we’ll provide a close-up view of maintaining an ocean buoy and discuss the data it collects and why it’s critical to understanding the impacts of excess carbon in the ocean and atmosphere. We’ll even get up close and personal with the animals and plants that drift on Bay currents as plankton and settle on the buoy’s submerged surface. This year, we’ll pay special attention to kelp and other ocean plants, with take-home activities and talks about their essential role in providing ecological habitat and food for animals (including humans) and absorbing carbon dioxide.

On loan to us from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the CO2 buoy has been anchored between Piers 15 and 17 since April 2013, collecting data on water temperature, salinity, and CO2 levels in the atmosphere and in San Francisco Bay. Every year, we pull it out of the water to calibrate and replace the sensors and to clean off corrosion and marine organisms.

Microscope organism identification with our Living Systems Lab and the iNaturalist team from the California Academy of Sciences

Start your own algae herbarium with a make-and-take activity. Using algae samples taken from the underside of our buoy and some professional plant preservation supplies—we’ll provide them!—you can press and preserve your own piece of seaweed.

Not a member yet? Join us and get free admission all year long!