Dr. Brian von Herzen

Dr. Brian von Herzen obtained degrees in physics, engineering and planetary science from Princeton and Caltech, respectively, where he was a Hertz Fellow. At Princeton, Brian worked closely with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). His dissertation on global climate models validated orbital variation effects on climate. At Caltech, Brian worked on the overabundance of carbon in Jupiter's atmosphere. Little did he know that a decade later we would be addressing this very problem for the Earth. By restoring natural carbon cycles, we can restore food productivity of Earth while concurrently balancing carbon.

Brian serves as Executive Director of the Climate Foundation and leads projects on land and sea with research groups in India, Africa, USA and the Pacific Ocean. Over the last decade, Brian has developed Marine Permaculture to restore fish productivity in subtropical oceans, to ensure economically and ecologically sustainable food security. Brian has been conducting research in Woods Hole regarding autonomous guidance of Marine Permaculture arrays. He also researched, developed and commercialized biochar reactors for sanitation that produce biochar (organic charcoal for agricultural purposes) which holds carbon in the soil for thousands of years. 


Today’s warmer surface waters limit natural overturning circulation and vertical mixing by increasing density stratification in the upper ocean, particularly in the subtropics, reducing available nutrients for algae, fish habitat and forage fish upon which other fish depend. Warmer, more stratified oceans require new approaches to managing marine ecosystems. In order to increase food security, bolster marine ecosystems and export blue carbon, infrastructure associated with Marine Permaculture (MP) restores overturning circulation locally, thereby regenerating key ecosystem services supporting seaweed forests. Cooler, nutrient-rich water from the deep provides favorable conditions for seaweed growth and thereby regenerates habitat and food at sea for forage fish.

Currently, the Climate Foundation is deploying a Phase 2 Marine Permaculture in the Indian Ocean to validate benefits to seaweed mariculture and to demonstrate the biological response of commercially relevant macroalgae to deep water upwelled to the surface. This is a key step in developing scaled MPs, which enable larger offshore open-ocean seaweed cultivation that use the vertical shear of mesoscale eddies for maneuvering. Renewable energy sources provide the power needed for seaweed irrigation and guidance, enabling cultivation across subtropical oceans, eliminating the limitations of nearshore cultivation. We plan to operate MPs as ocean-going vessels under Admiralty Law, with its 500 years of precedent, or alternatively under regulations for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. Regulations for vessels tend to be much faster to meet than zoning and permitting fixed sites, enabling us to accelerate permitting relative to California coastal conventions.

Dr. Brian von Herzen, our guest on May 31, 2019

Dr. Brian von Herzen, our guest on May 31, 2019