Coastal Perspectives Lecture – Mar 19, 2024

Beyond the Surface: Forecasting Ocean Acidification and Other Stressors Facing Marine Resources in a Changing Climate

Samantha SiedleckiSamantha Siedlecki, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut

Over recent decades, the combination of fossil fuel emissions, deforestation, and cement production have caused large physical and biogeochemical modifications to the world’s oceans. The oceans have warmed, salinity distributions altered, driving changes in stratification. In addition, biogeochemical alterations are co-occurring, including oxygen declines, changes in productivity, and increased dissolved inorganic carbon content due to uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide – which alters the pH and mineral saturation state (Ω) through a process called ocean acidification. Individually and together these changes pose threats to marine organisms. Big ocean changes are happening, but global trends may not accurately represent what happens in coastal regions. The ability to predict changes in ocean health indicators like the degree of acidification in combination with temperature and oxygen in dynamic coastal waters could be of considerable benefit to managers. Since components of the ecosystem respond strongly to climate and physical forcing, the right kind of prognostic information could yield significant payoffs for management and industry. Progress on prediction tools has led to a recent rise in ecological forecasting research and products driven largely by increasing demand for decision-support tools to help marine stakeholders prepare for and adapt to ecosystem variability and change. For example, any predictive information on changes in timing or intensity of OA-related events may help shellfish growers better anticipate conditions, assess risk, and plan accordingly. Over the past ten years, I have been developing a suite of tools to help marine resource managers plan, and this talk will include details about that experience with important implications for the success of these efforts in other regions.


As an oceanographer, Dr. Siedlecki focuses on coastal regions where she implements numerical simulations to investigate and identify processes within that environment responsible for the biogeochemical dynamics in both the modern and future oceans. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago where she focused on largely on theoretical systems of the ocean. As a postdoctoral fellow at JISAO at the University of Washington, she began simulating Washington and Oregon waters using realistic simulations of ocean acidification variable and hypoxia developed as part of the Coastal Modeling Group there. At JISAO, she extended that work to include seasonal (J-SCOPE) and short term (LiveOcean) forecasts.  Now an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, she has begun exploring regional climate projections of ocean conditions on both the west and east coast of the US. She has recently co-authored a chapter in the United States’ 4th National Climate Assessment and the 2nd State of the Carbon Cycle Report, and been named a Kavli Fellow.  Through work with colleagues on both coasts as well as new collaborators part of the Early Career Faculty Innovators Program at NCAR, she and her group at UConn are partnering with social scientists to bring these tools into decision making frameworks to aid coastal communities and the challenges they face with respect to marine resource planning.


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