Laura Migliaccio

2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates

Effects of ocean acidification on pteropods off the coast of Washington

Laura MigliaccioNine weeks may sound like forever when you are traveling across the country to live somewhere you’ve never been and to work with people you’ve never met.  Nine weeks, however, goes by in the blink of an eye when you are surrounded by a city of vivacity and people who are as welcoming as the JISAO team.

For nine weeks, I researched ocean acidification (OA) and it’s effects on pteropods.  Under the direction of scientists Nina Bednarsek and Richard Feely, I spent the first part of my summer working with live pteropods taken from Hood Canal, Washington.  Pteropods are of high interest in OA research because their shells are made from a highly soluble form of CaCO3 called aragonite.  As the ocean absorbs more CO2 and pH drops, pteropod shells become more susceptible to dissolution.  I studied the effects of different pCO2 levels on shell dissolution by culturing pteropods in three different systems (400ppm, 1600ppm, and 3200ppm CO2).  Several respiration experiments using oxygen probes were also carried out to see if pCO2 affects respiration rates and in turn metabolism.  When I wasn’t working with live animals, other tasks included identifying and counting various species of pteropods from historical samples, making buffers and staining solutions, and preparing workspaces for a research cruise on a NOAA research vessel.

The second part of my summer consisted of working with oceanographic modeler Sam Siedlecki to create time series and maps that describe oceanic parameters such as pH and aragonite saturation.  By plugging algorithms into MATLAB software, predictions for pH and aragonite levels off the Washington coast for 6-9 months in the future could be mapped.  Forecasts were created for the 2013 upwelling season (May-October), which is of particular interest because upwelling causes deeper O­2 depleted, CO2 rich Laura teaching an elementary student about the oceanwaters to come up onto the continental shelf, decreasing pH of coastal waters even more.

While (very exciting) research took up a large portion of the summer, there was always time to go out and explore Seattle too.  The other interns and I formed long-lasting friendships as weekends and several weekday evenings were filled with excursions to beaches, parks, and of course downtown Seattle.  Between the must-see attractions and weekly festivals, there was never a dull moment in the Emerald City.  So nine weeks may sound like a lot of time at first, but when you are in the midst of cutting-edge research and a city that is rich in history and spirit, suddenly nine weeks doesn’t feel quite long enough.  Being a JISAO intern was a unique and exciting experience that helped me build strong research skills and strong relationships between professionals and peers alike.  It is an opportunity that I am immensely grateful for and I hope future JISAO interns will also take full advantage of the program!

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