Two Texas students begin NOAA Ocean Acidification Graduate Research Fellowship

The fellowship program was created to develop ocean acidification researchers in the Gulf of Mexico, a region expected to experience increased ocean acidification in the future.

Larissa Dias and Richard Rosas, both nominated by Texas Sea Grant, are beginning their Ocean Acidification Graduate Research Fellowships, a joint effort between Texas Sea Grant, Louisiana Sea Grant, and the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP). They are among five students selected for the fellowship, which began in Sept. 2020.

The fellowship program was created to develop ocean acidification researchers in the Gulf of Mexico, a region expected to experience increased ocean acidification in the future. Fellows will address issues relevant to coastal ecosystems and communities related to ocean, coastal and estuarine acidification. The goal is to improve the understanding of the potential ecological consequences of increasing carbon dioxide concentration, which causes ocean acidification, in regional ocean, coastal and estuarine waters.

The program provides professional development opportunities in science communication, management application, outreach and other Sea Grant and OAP activities and mission priorities.

“Ocean acidification is a global problem,” said Dr. Pamela T. Plotkin, Texas Sea Grant director. “This new partnership with NOAA OAP will encourage Gulf of Mexico acidification research by providing support to early career scientists in Texas.”

Dias is a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) studying coastal and marine systems science. She holds a Master of Science in biology from TAMUCC and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Texas. Her research focuses on long-term, and yet-to-be-explained shifts in pH and alkalinity in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Dias examines the role of freshwater in these shifts. Data from sediment cores and Texas rivers will be used to model estuarine alkalinity dynamics. The results of this research will ultimately help managers mitigate acidification.

“This fellowship will allow me to focus on improving quality of results from my research and communicating my passion for my research with the general public and other stakeholders, which may inspire others to protect the vulnerable Texas coast,” Dias said. “My goal is that my research will have meaningful, real-world applications in mitigation of ocean or coastal acidification.”

Rosas is a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University studying oceanography. He received his Bachelor of science in marine science from the University of Delaware. He studies the potential impacts of ocean acidification, resulting from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, on the coral reefs of the NOAA Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary by examining how corals’ calcium carbonate skeletal structure have changed over time. Additionally, his research examines the environmental processes that control pH and ocean water chemistry.

“My passion for oceanography crystallized 2,500 meters below the sea surface, studying hydrothermal vents in the Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin. This inspired me to further push the boundaries of science,” Rosas said. “This fellowship will provide me with essential teaching and outreach skills that will assist in propelling my career forward and allowing me to serve as an excellent educator and researcher.”

Media Contact: Sara Carney, Texas Sea Grant communications manager, scarney@tamu.edu, 979-458-8442

Texas A&M University, College of Geosciences, 14 September 2020. Article.

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