It's probably appropriate that I ended up in an Environmental Science department, and a Marine Center. I have always split my interests between various fields, but always circled back to water and the environment. I started out as an engineering major at Stanford, then switched to engineering geology, where I could use practical approaches to look at questions about the earth. I just found rocks to be a lot more interesting than bridges, and field camp a lot more appealing than the computer lab. Of course I have come to love the computer lab as well, but only in so far as it helps me see further into the data I collect about the natural world.
I served in the Peace Corps for two years in Mali, which was an incredible experience. I did some environmental education, worked in the health center, built some wells, drank a lot of tea and learned a lot about myself and about what it's like to be a stranger. It was one of the best things I have ever done and though and I am sure it was more valuable to me than to the people in my village, I hope I left the place a little better than when I arrived.
I came back to the states and returned to school to take premed classes. This is a common reaction to Peace Corps service. I soon realized that I dislike memorization way too much to make it through med school, but discovered an interest in chemistry at the same time. I found a graduate program (at the University of Washington) where I could indulge my interests in chemistry, geology, water, and engineering, and muck around in boats and submarines at the same time. I graduated in 2009 from UW in chemical oceanography after spending a few years building a sensor to measure CO2 in deep ocean hot springs (black smokers).
I came to Western and have been teaching in Environmental Science, and at the Shannon Point Marine Center as part of the MIMSUP program. I have branched out from CO2 in very hot places, to focus on some collaborative research on ocean acidification - the effects of CO2 on the ecology of our future oceans.
Graduate Students: I am currently advising one student, Nicole Singh who will be developing a project regarding forage fish and ocean acidification. Cristina Villalobos is a recent graduate who worked on the effects of ocean acidification on the survival and development of pacific herring eggs/larvae. Tyler Tran investigated the relationship between eelgrass density, residence time and CO2 draw down in waters with varying initial CO2 levels. I do not have funding for a new student for the fall of 2021.
I have research focus in two areas: Hydrothermal Systems and Ocean Acidification. My hydrothermal research focuses on dissolved gas in hydrothermal fluids. The fluids from black smokers, and from their less glamorous low temperature vents are full of volatiles, which are important both as energy sources for the unique ecosystems which thrive in these environments, but also in looking a questions of the links between the biosphere, the hydrosphere and the geosphere. On what time scale to they vary, and by how much? In order to answer these questions we need sensors that can measure these parameters with a better resolution than going out on a ship once a year or once every few years, and collecting a sample.
In a slightly less exotic area, but one which will likely have very important implications in the coming decades, we are looking at what effects increased CO2 will have on the food webs of the ocean. Some phytoplankton like the coccolothophorid pictured above make calcium carbonate shells. These organisms are expected to be especially sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry brought about by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. How will these cells react to increased carbon dioxide and how will their predators react? We're looking at these questions with the support of the National Science Foundation at Shannon Point Marine Lab.
I am also interested in the carbon chemistry of near shore habitats, particularly in how vegetation such as eelgrass can influence the water chemistry. Very large swings in pH and associated parameters are driven by photosynthesis and respiration in these areas as we are working to show exactly how that occurs, what the drivers are and how we can predict the effects of vegetated habitats on water chemistry.