Dr. Rachel Sipler
Research involves: Identifying what physical and chemical changes in the environment will have the largest impact on organisms at the base of the marine food web.
Research relevance: This research will lead to a better understanding of factors controlling ocean productivity now and in the future.
Surf and Turf: how changes on land impact the ocean
Tiny plants in the ocean, called phytoplankton, form the base of marine food web and are ultimately the food for all marine organisms. Without them there would be no larger organisms like fish. Phytoplankton supply the oxygen that we breathe and use the carbon dioxide that we produce.
The number of phytoplankton and how fast they grow in the ocean is determined by several things, including light, temperature, and nutrients. All of these are affected by changes in our climate and how we use the land. For example, as storms become more frequent and severe, as permafrost thaws, and as forests are converted to houses, what flows from the land into the ocean also changes.
Dr. Sipler’s research focuses on understanding how phytoplankton will respond to these changes. She has worked in the Arctic, Antarctic, and many systems in between. As a Canada Research Chair in Ocean Biogeochemistry, Dr. Sipler and her team will use both traditional and cutting-edge biological and chemical methods to determine what factors are most critical to maintaining healthy and productive marine systems.
The goal of Dr. Sipler’s work is to provide accurate information needed to predict the impacts of climate and environmental change on the health of coastal marine systems and to help managers make the best decisions by pinpointing regions most at risk. By identifying the most harmful chemical inputs to the ocean we can work to reduce them and preserve our marine resources. If we can predict the change, we can plan for the future.