Job title and place of work
Associate Professor, Department of Marine Science, University of Otago.
What is your role in the CARIM project? What work package are you contributing to?
Most marine species have a planktonic larval stage that must settle onto the sea floor and metamorphose into the the young animal. This settlement process is therefore a key part of the lifecycle of marine animals, so we need to know if ocean acidification will affect the process.
I am contributing to understanding how ocean acidification may alter or inhibit settlement of marine species, including Paua, Greenshell mussel and a range of other key invertebrates (i.e. polychaetes, sea urchins, barnacles). This will include examining if larval settlement behaviour changes under ocean acidifcation, or if changes in the substrate they are settling on result in altered settlement.
This is important, as altered settlement may result in lower recruitment or animals settling in unsuitable habitats.
What do you do on an average work day?
I work at a marine lab, and spend much of my day collecting and spawning marine animals, rearing their larval stages and examining their responses to various environmental conditions. This is done by designing and running experiments on marine animals that test questions I am interested in finding out the answer for. For example, if I am interested in knowing how ocean acidification may affect settlement of Paua, I experiment by raising Paua larvae in normal seawater and in sea water that is like the future acidified oceans. I then look at how well they settle to see if there are any differences between normal larvae and those raised in future conditions. If there are, we might conclude ocean acidification may alter future settlement of Paua, and perhaps the size and distributions of Paua along our coast.
As I work in a university, while I undertake my own research, I also teach and train students in how to study marine animals and run experiments.
Why is studying coastal acidification important?
Ocean acidifcation, along with ocean warming will fundamentally change the type of ocean we have in the future. All organisms will be faced with more acidic and warmer oceans - conditions which could alter key biological processes in marine species such as growing shells, reproducing, and maintaining good health. It could ultimately mean some species may become rare or even disappear from certain habitats. We are still learning how ocean acidification will affect species, and what species or stages of their lifecycles might be most affected by climate change.
What study did you do at high school? And after high school?
Timaru Boys High School – Biology, Mathematics, Economic. At University I studied Geology, Zoology and Botany as an undergraduate, and Marine Science for my PhD. After that, I studied marine invertebrate larval ecology at the University of Washington, USA.
What outcomes from CARIM do you think there will be?
The CARIM project is an opportunity to increase our understanding of how New Zealand marine species will respond to future ocean acidification.
It will identify how much New Zealand waters will acidify, and the degree that our endemic species will be affected by changes in the local environment. It will show what species might be most vulnerable to ocean acidification, where and why.
What excites you about working on this project?
The chance to work with researchers from around New Zealand that specialise in different aspects of marine science including chemists, algal biologists, microbiologists and modellers.
Also, ocean acidification is an extremely important process to examine as it will affect New Zealand ecologically, economically, and socially. Our research will be a great benefit to all New Zealanders, so it is exciting to be involved.