Kim Currie

Job title and place of work

Marine Chemist, NIWA, Dunedin.

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

I lead RA1, the monitoring component of CARIM.  Work in this RA aims to determine the variability of coastal pH and the carbonate system at 3 sites – Hauraki Gulf, Nelson Bays and Karitane.  The information from this component also informs the perturbation experiments (where we manipulate pH and temperature), and the modelling work we are doing.

We are collecting time-series records of how pH varies, and are also looking at biogeochemical parameters to better understand factors influencing coastal acidification and ecosystem response to coastal acidification.

Permanently mounted sensors provide data on day (diel) and tidal variability of temperature, pH and related measures and capture short term variability due to local events such as riverine input, phytoplankton blooms, and hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the water).

I mainly work at the Karitane site, where we have two moorings – one close to shore in a kelp bed, and the other in 12m of water outside the kelp bed.  There are sensors on the moorings which take measurements every 30 mins, and we visit the site every month to take water samples and to check on the instruments.

I work with staff and students from the Dept of Marine Sciences at the University of Otago, and with local people from the East Otago Taiapure who are also conducting research on the ecology of the area.  The Puketeraki Nga Waka Club, based at the Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki at Karitane, also take water samples for us.

We then analyse the samples, maintain the instruments and work up the data.  The data will be available on the website (work in progress). 

What do you do on an average work day?

I don’t really have an “average” day!  Some days I am in the field.  We travel by boat to the field site at Karitane, then I work with the divers to check the instruments and collect water samples.

Back in the chemistry lab, we analyse the samples and clean and maintain the instruments.
In the office I do the calculations, maintain the data base, and write reports and presentations.

I also work with other scientists on CARIM to put my field measurements in context with the experiments that they are going.  

One of the things that I really like about my job is that there is no “average” work day – there is a lot of variety and I use a lot of different skills.

Why is studying coastal acidification important?

The coastal environment is a key part of our ecosystem, and also a key part of our identity as New Zealanders.  Ocean acidification is likely to change this environment, the plants and animals that grow there, the kaimoana we gather, and the industries that are dependent on the environment.  It is important that we understand the changes that are happening, are able to minimise the impacts where possible, and to adapt where necessary.

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

I studied science at Wakatipu High School, and enjoyed many outdoor activities.  I then went to the University of Otago where I graduated with a BSc(Hons) in Chemistry.  After working for a bit I returned to University to do a PhD in marine chemistry.  I wanted to work in an environmentally important field,and to do a job that had a lot of field work. 

What outcomes from CARIM do you think there will be?

We will have a deeper understanding of the environmental conditions at three key sites, and the drivers that affect the pH in those areas.  We will also know how those those environments are likely to be affected in the future by ocean acidification.  We will also be able to identify which shellfish and other plants and animals are most likely to be resistant to these future impacts.

In addition, our work will help to raise awareness in the general public, coastal communities, aquaculture industries of the issues around ocean acidification.

What excites you about working on this project?

Working with people with different backgrounds, and different skills and different approaches (botanists, geologists, ecologists, modellers, aquaculture experts, local community organisations etc) to investigate the issue of ocean acidification.