Helen Macdonald


Job title and place of work

Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS) Numerical Modeller at NIWA, Wellington.

What is your role in the CARIM project? What work package are you contributing to?

I am contributing to Research Area 2: Sources and seasonality of low pH and carbonate in the Hauraki Gulf

In this research area I am working on building models that can be used to represent interactions in the ocean between the physical processes (such as water movement), the biological processes (such as growth of microscopic organisms) and the chemical processes (such as exchanges of gases between the ocean and the atmosphere).

What do you do on an average work day?

On an average work day I will use a supercomputer to test, run and develop the models that we need in this project. I will also visualise and analyse the output from these models. One of the great things about working with the numerical models that I use is that I can create some interesting and informative movies of the processes occurring in the ocean.

Why is studying coastal acidification important?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the oceans. Any increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide increases the carbon in the oceans, making them more acidic. This can have an effect on biological processes in the ocean as some species struggle in the new acidic environment. The models developed in this project will help predict and inform us on these changes which will give us a better chance to mitigate and adapt to the changes.

What study did you do at high school? And after high school?

I studied science and mathematics subjects in high school. At university I continued to study science and mathematics related topics but these subjects became less broad and more focused on numerical modelling and scientific processes in the ocean.

What outcomes from CARIM do you think there will be?

One outcome that we are going to achieve under this project will be the creation of some biogeochemical models. This will enable us to calculate biogeochemical budgets and give insight into the factors driving ocean acidification. There will be, however, plenty of other positive outcomes that are achieved as a side-effects of these goals. In particular, the models that we create within this project can be used for a wide range of oceanic applications from the scale of the Hauraki Gulf to the whole of New Zealand.

What excites you about working on this project?

Studying complex interactions between all different parts of the marine system from the ocean currents to the biological processes.