University of Miami grad student receives NSF GRF to study impact of ocean acidification

Rachael Heuer to use Gulf toadfish to see how they might cope with increasingly acidic ocean conditions

Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science Marine Biology and Fisheries student, Rachael Heuer, was one of four University of Miami students to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based advanced degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.

Using Gulf toadfish (Opsanus beta) Heuer is studying how these fish might cope with ocean acidification, or changes in ocean chemistry resulting from rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that are absorbed by the ocean. Her initial findings indicate that toadfish exposed to elevated CO2 levels, relevant for the near future and current upwelling regions, lose increased amounts of base from the body through the intestine. This is problematic since toadfish and other marine fishes need to retain bases to help them cope with acidic environments. Heuer’s preliminary findings suggest that this intestinal base loss negatively affects their overall pH balance and health.

“During my NSF Fellowship, I hope to build upon these findings by assessing the energetic cost and exploring the effects of long-term CO2 exposure in the Gulf toadfish. I am excited to utilize this fellowship to contribute to a rapidly expanding field of ocean acidification research,” says Heuer. “Additionally, I was thrilled to see that NSF offers additional funding opportunities for fellows to conduct research at partner institutions near the Baltic Sea, a unique environment that already has regions with CO2 levels higher than what is expected globally over the next two centuries. This will allow me to further study the adaptive physiology of fish in a highly acidic environment.”

UM Professor and Rosenstiel School Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Martin Grosell, is Heuer’s advisor, and is proud of her work since arriving at the Rosenstiel School. “Rachael came to the Rosenstiel School in 2010 with extensive teaching and outreach experience and significant research training. She is a highly deserving recipient of this prestigious fellowship that offers support for overseas research experiences and as such will enhance her scientific training.”

Heuer received her Bachelor of Science in Zoology from the University of Florida in 2006 and spent three years in Tampa Bay, Fla. teaching biology, ecology, and AP Environmental Science at East Bay High School before coming to the University of Miami. Heuer commented, “This experience greatly shaped my perspective on the importance of science education and the role of scientists in communicating with the public.”


About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School

Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit



Contact: Barbra Gonzalez
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science


Barbra Gonzalez, EurekAlert, 16 April 2012. Article.

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: