My current research interests are centered around exploring the effects of anthropogenic-induced ocean acidification (OA) on larval sea urchins. OA is predicted to strongly affect sea urchins and their larval stages may be especially vulnerable. I am specifically interested in assessing the role of maternal nutritional condition in influencing OA stress response and development in urchin larvae. I have conducted experiments here in Santa Barbara with the purple urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and the red urchin (S. franciscanus) as well as at Friday Harbor Laboratories in Washington with the green urchin (S. droebachiensis). In addition to using biochemical approaches, the close evolutionary relationship between thee species facilitates the purple urchin as a foundation for creating molecule tools to study gene expression patterns in the ecologically and commercially important, but less studied, congeners.
In addition to these physiological studies, I am also interested in understanding the pH dynamics that organisms are currently experiencing in the nearshore marine environment. Such dynamics may play a large role in determining which species may have evolved to be "winners or losers" under future climate scenarios. This work is made possible by using autonomous pH sensors, called SeaFETS (images below), originally designed by Dr. Todd Martz at SIO. These SeaFETS allow us to collect high-frequency observations of pH to better understand the magnitude and patterns of variation that these marine species may be currently experiencing. This information can be valuable in constraining manipulative laboratory experiments to assess tolerance to OA stress.