Save oysters from ocean acidification!

Please fund my project on RocketHub!  RocketHub is not an investment or charity.  It is an exchange of funds from fans for rewards from me.  Even if I don’t reach my goal, I keep what I raise and it will still go towards funding my PhD dissertation research.  Here’s your chance to be part of exciting and cutting-edge environmental research!

Ocean acidification is an environmental change that is stressful for marine organisms and is becoming more and more prevalent in the world’s oceans.  Ocean acidification (OA) is caused by increasing emissions in the earth’s atmosphere from industry and other human activities.  As carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere, they equilibrate with the surface ocean waters and create more hydrogen ions, which lower the pH of the ocean. As ocean pH drops, marine organisms are exposed to an environment that they have not experienced before.  The effects of OA can include decreased calcification, increased mortality, inhibited reproduction, and many more.

I study how OA affects Pacific oysters, a species that is found in nearshore environments around the world.  Some of the effects of OA on oysters and similar species have been well established, but my work will uncover the molecular effects (i.e. at the gene and protein level).  It is important to understand how environmental change, such as OA, affects aquatic life at the molecular level because genes and proteins are the basic building blocks of any change in physiological response and give real insight into what processes are being affected.  I study Pacific oysters because they are an important species, both economically and ecologically, and also are a good model when making comparisons with other aquatic invertebrates.

I think that it is extremely important to understand how human impacts affect the environment and the living organisms that depend on natural ecosystems.  This project is just one way of accomplishing such a broad research goal, but it is important because its implications extend beyond oysters.  Many organisms have similar physiological pathways and an in-depth analysis of how OA affects oysters could help to inform future research in a wide range of species.  

With the money I raise on RocketHub, I plan to sequence the transcriptome of oysters that were exposed to OA.  The transcriptome is the entire collection of genes that are expressed in an organism and this expression profile changes under different environmental conditions.  I recently completed a  study during which I simulated 5 different future scenarios of OA.  Groups of oysters were exposed to these different scenarios for a month.  Now that I have all my samples, I just need the funds to analyze them and discover which genes are affected by OA!  If I fund over 100% of my goal, the extra money would go towards further analyses of my samples, such as lipid content of tissues (an important indicator of organism health and stress).


Rocket Hub, 29 February 2012. Article.

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