Staff Spotlight: Remy Okazaki
Remy Okazaki joined JISAO in 2014 to head the validation efforts for the year-long $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE competition. The competition was a unique opportunity to work at the intersection of academia (JISAO), government (NOAA), and non-profit philanthropy (XPRIZE). The combination of cutting-edge technology, chemical oceanography, data science, and project management was good fit for Remy, allowing him to leverage his background in ocean acidification and dust off his long-neglected business degree. The validation work included experimental design, data analyses, and logistics at three sites (MBARI in California, Seattle Aquarium in Washington, and Station ALOHA in Hawaii). Since the competition concluded in July 2015, Remy has developed interactive, online carbonate chemistry visualization tools, reinvested budget surpluses back into the laboratory, and found ways to reduce operational costs (such as designing custom 3D printed parts).
As a graduate student at the University of Miami in Miami, FL, Remy measured pH for the 2007 CLIVAR P18 repeat hydrography cruise to Easter Island. On that cruise, he met several PMEL scientists who would later become his colleagues. In the meantime back in Miami, he researched growth responses of Caribbean corals to climate change, which included multi-year field campaigns and running the Climate Change mesocosms laboratory for six months. Building on this experience, he moved to Panama to establish an ocean acidification laboratory for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s (STRI) Bocas del Toro field station. Delays were common working for the U.S. federal government in a Latin American country, so he found creative ways to stay productive: learning how to build cheap, do-it-yourself Arduino gadgets, writing grants and manuscripts, exploring the archipelago for potential study sites, and even some surfing...
After getting the lab running, Remy accomplished a life-goal and went backpacking around the world for a year. Ever the business-minded scientist, he tracked his expenses and visited 24 countries for less than a grad student’s salary. As much as he enjoyed the diverse cuisine, festivals, and exotic vistas, he knew he would return to research and began applying for jobs around the halfway point, eventually landing the position at JISAO. Since then, he’s been enjoying the readily accessible outdoors and delicious microbrews of the Pacific Northwest.Photo credits: Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times (top), Evan D'Alessandro (bottom)