Dr. Nichole Price
My interests in the threat of ocean acidification to coral reef ecology began as I was finishing my Ph.D. (UCSB, 2008) on the ecological significance of interactions between coral recruits and coralline algae. Reduced saturation states and rising sea surface temperatures can directly affect the physiology of both of these calcifying reef-builders in short-term ‘shock’ experiments. However, little is known about the ability for these organisms to acclimatize to slowly changing sea water conditions on a reef. I joined the Smith lab as a postdoc at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and our first goal was to quantify the natural variability of carbonate chemistry in situ and to look for opportunities to conduct ‘natural’ experiments on remote, healthy reefs that might demonstrate resistance and resilience to global impacts. In doing so, we realized that net community metabolism contributes to diel cycling of pH on an intact reef and that feedback could exacerbate or buffer the effects of ocean acidification, depending on the species assemblage of the benthos (and physical oceanography). Further, we are discovering other important but underappreciated calcifiers, namely Halimeda, are also sensitive to changing seawater chemistry, but their physiological responses are not always easy to predict. For these calcifying photo-autotrophs, CO2 enrichment can simultaneously release the organism from carbon-limitation while also limiting calcification. The complexity of the ‘other CO2 problem’ has fueled our research interests of how community structure development, species interactions, and organismal physiology affect and are affected by ocean acidification.