Meet Amanda Kelley, an assistant professor at UAF’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and the co-Director of the UAF Ocean Acidification Research Center. Amanda took some time to answer questions about her research, what drew her to study ocean acidification, and some memorable moments in her career.
Q: What element of OA do you work on, and where?
I am an ecophysiologist interested in studying the biological impacts of ocean acidification and other man-made environmental stressors. I use laboratory experiments and field instruments (such as ocean pH sensors) to predict how key marine species will respond to future ocean change. Currently I’m working with the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward to conduct ocean acidification experiments on juvenile geoduck clams. The goal is to determine their potential vulnerability to ocean acidification.
Q: What drew you to study ocean acidification in Alaska?
A: Ocean acidification in high-latitudes is an ecological threat that we will face this century. Alaska is particularly at risk because we rely on healthy marine ecosystems to for our economy, recreation, and food. My background in studying ocean change in Antarctica left me poised to bring my particular skill set to Alaska to get a better understanding of the resilience – how will our living marine resources respond to ocean acidification.
Q: What are some of the most notable things you’ve learned about OA in Alaska or in general?
The field of ocean acidification research has really come a long way in terms of determining what types of questions need to be answered, and answering them. Technology has helped us do this – we now have oceanographic sensors that can measure a myriad of parameters in high-frequency, and for long periods of time. These data are really helpful in figuring out how to set up lab experiments appropriately, and also to establish a baseline so we can compare conditions in the future to those we’re experiencing now. Our ability to investigate the response of marine life has also been pushed forward using lab experiments and numerical modeling so we can get a better handle on how communities and ecosystems may shift.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for a researcher in the OA field?
Alaska is a very big state, and serves as coastal habitat for many different bodies of water, including the Gulf of Alaska and Chukchi Sea. These various habitats are entrained by diverse physicochemical processes that are important for the animals that live there. Getting a pulse on the type of environmental variability that exists (such as pH, temperature, oxygen concentration, salinity) on an hourly, weekly, seasonal, and annual basis is difficult given the remote nature these ecosystems. We need to know what the animals are experiencing now on order to understand how they may respond to future ocean change. This task is a difficult one given Alaska’s size and remoteness.
Q: What is a really memorable moment from your time the field or in the lab?
My most memorable time in the field was when I got to dive under the sea ice in McMurdo Sound, to collect my study organisms and to perform maintenance on our pH sensors. The visibility is amazing due to the fact that very little primary productivity happens during winter as a result of 24-hour darkness. The sea ice overhead casts an amazing hue of blue that is unique to this environment.