Samantha Gale

Job title and place of work

Aquaculture Scientist, Cawthron Institute

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

My role in CARIM has been to lead the first part of RA5 ( Selection of coastal species for resilience to low pH) using Greenshell mussels at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park near Nelson. We have just completed the first part of RA5, having spawned and assessed the larvae of 96 pedigreed families of Greenshell mussels incubated in both a control and ~pH 7.6 environment. This was a massive logistical effort involving the careful co-ordination of industry partners, students, volunteers and all of our technicians. The parents of all of the larvae used in this trial have been kept at our facility. Once the larval performance data has been analysed we will be able to determine those families that are most vulnerable or resilient to low pH.

What do you do on an average work day?

Every day is very different here at the aquaculture park and the CARIM projects are really multi-disciplinary. One minute we could be looking after our animals out in the shellfish nursery; the next we could be in our dry labs ensuring our assessment instruments (to measure carbonate) are functioning and calibrated; the next investigating the micro-engineering aspects of creating repeatable carbon dioxide enriched environments.

Why is studying coastal acidification important?

We have very strong evidence that ocean acidification really is happening here in NZ coastal waters. We have a unique coastal seascape of international importance that is utilized, subsisted and has deep cultural importance by the people who live here- with 75% of New Zealanders living within 10kms of the sea( 2006 census). In addition, NZ earns $1.71 billion from seafood exports annually and supports 20,000 jobs here… so understanding the effects of coastal acidification and preparing for it are essential.

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

At high school in the UK I completed A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Geography and entered a degree in Environmental Biology. I specialised in plant biology and conservation through my MSc and PhD. Following my PhD I travelled to NZ and fell in love with its stunning environment and the pursuit of outdoor adventure. I was fortunate enough to gain employment with the Cawthron Institute in 2008 and have been here ever since! 

What outcomes from CARIM do you think there will be?

We are going to discover a huge amount about how populations of these key iconic species respond specifically to forecast carbonate environments (i.e. ocean acidification scenarios); from cell function to broad-reaching ecological function.  But I also think we will be discovering key basic biology that will help us to understand the other pressures on our coastal environment, the other stressors such as pollution and sea surface warming and most importantly the consequence of these stressors in combination. 

What excites you about working on this project?

I have really enjoyed working on this project, I think what really excites me is that there are so many types of people working together to understand a problem; shellfish farmers, marine scientists, seawater chemists, engineers, public communicators, artists – I think CARIM is a pioneer of a new generation of science projects. I really like it that such an effort is being made to engage, involve and communicate to the community.