Carina pointing at computer screen, collaborating with another ocean scientist.

Tracking climate change below the surface

Human induced change has been well studied in easily accessible locations (land, and surface ocean), but the extent to which deeper parts of the ocean feel human impacts is understudied. I am investigating the ways in which deep sea coral ecosystems are affected by ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and temperature variability higher in the water column.

Specifically, I seek to answer the following questions: 1) How have surface water carbonate chemistry and biological productivity changed over timescales of modern oceanographic monitoring (i.e. decades), and 2) Is there evidence that these short-term processes impact benthic communities?

Overhead shot of Carina adjusting a CTD rosette.
Julie Chase/ACCESS/NOAA/Pt. Blue

Coral growth controls

The California Current system is dominated by upwelling and is a harbinger of change. Bamboo corals, in particular, have two records - one from the surface and one from the deep sea - which make them a wealth of information. To better understand the effects of human-induced change, I am studying coral growth in the California margin, specifically how they respond to environmental parameters like oxygenation via depth in the water column, and food availability via geography/latitude. I measure this through the variability of the coral skeleton, including morphology, density, and rate of radial growth.

Carina standing on the second deck level of E/V Nautilus with crane and ROV Hercules + Argus in background.
Kaitlyn Becker/ONMS/OET

California margin recent variability

The California margin is usually replete in biologically available nitrogen due to upwelling, so the base of the food web stays relatively stable. However, a recent paper found an isotopic excursion - possibly a signal of a state change. The geochemical toolset Schiff et al. (2014) used to detect a change in the isotopic composition of the coral is effective in tracking coral diets, so this could signal that the coral’s food source has changed. My research aims to isolate exactly what caused this excursion so as to determine implications for the entire ecosystem.

Journal Publications and Patents


Dec. 2020 AGU Fall Meeting: PP022 (poster)
Feb. 2020 Ocean Sciences Meeting: PC52A (oral)
Dec. 2019 AGU Fall Meeting: PP31B (oral)
Apr. 2019 NorCal Paleo (lightning)
Oct. 2018 Ford Fellows Conference: (oral)
Jun. 2018 10th anniversary Bridge to the PhD Symposium (oral)
Feb. 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting: OC41A (oral)
Dec. 2017 AGU Fall Meeting: GC23B (poster)
Nov. 2017 MIT/UW Graduate Climate Conference (poster)
May 2016 Bridge to the PhD Symposium (oral)
Dec. 2015 AGU Fall Meeting: PP53B (poster)
Jun. 2015 Bridge to the PhD Symposium (oral)


Sept. 2019 R/V Fulmar, project: ACCESS
July 2019 R/V Mussel Point, project: REU phytoplankton
Oct. 2018 NOAA Ship Shimada, project: EXPRESS
Sep. 2018 R/V Fulmar, project: ACCESS
July 2018 NOAA Ship Shimada, project: ACCESS
Sep. 2017 R/V Fulmar, project: ACCESS
Aug. 2017 E/V Nautilus, project: deep sea coral ROV
July 2017 R/V Fulmar, project: CBNMS ROV
July 2017 R/V Fulmar, project: ACCESS
May 2017 R/V Fulmar, project: ACCESS
Sep. 2016 R/V Fulmar, project: ACCESS
May 2012 R/V Knorr, project: MARPEX