ON THE SURFACE, the 27 offshore oil and gas rigs that run along the California
coast are a pointed reminder of our dependence on fossil fuels. Yet beneath
the surface, these platforms are home to some of the most dynamic ecosystems in the world, harboring everything from mussels and scallops to
garibaldi and rockfish. As many of these enormous rigs approach the end of
their production lives, scientists, environmental agencies, and oil companies
are left with the question: should the rigs stay or should they go?
Emily Callahan, MAS ’ 14, and Amber Jackson, MAS ’ 14, two alumnae
of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, have made it their mission to determine the best possible afterlife for these structures. Together, they aim to
turn the West Coast on to the innovative Rigs-to-Reefs program, an effort
that has already turned more than 500 decommissioned oil platforms in the
Gulf of Mexico into artificial reefs that provide abundant fishing opportunities, world-class diving and recreational activities, and ecological hotbeds
of underwater activity.
Yet the issue of how to handle decommissioned platforms is as complex as
it is charged— a challenge Callahan and Jackson have been working on for
years. “We really made it our mission in grad school and we’re still working
on it—to combine science with powerful imagery and a meaningful message
to change the tide of public perception around this program,” says Jackson,
a dedicated oceanographer with a passion for science communication.
Sponges and other marine life
cover the underwater portion
of an offshore rig in California.
Photo: Joe Platko
DEEP DIVE INTO
Blue Latitudes makes the best of a big contraption.
BY BRITTANY HOOK
TRITON | FALL 2016 52 WINTER 2017