Q&A with MarineGEO Postdoc Alex Lowe

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Tell us about your background
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the closest salt water was an hour drive to an ancient ocean (now a great, stinky, salty lake). I had family on the US west coast and always looked forward to visiting them and the water there. Growing up I loved water; I learned to swim before I could walk. But I quickly learned my hierarchy of water: Salt is better than fresh, moving is better than still. So when the option came up to move to Puget Sound, an inland sea with some of the fastest tidal currents in the world, I took it as soon as I could. I studied fisheries sciences and oceanography at the University of Washington. This led me to a couple field seasons in Antarctica with the Palmer Long-term Ecological Research program and a Master’s degree studying larval Antarctic krill at the University of California, Santa Barbara (an ideal place to study the frozen polar ocean). I then moved to the Friday Harbor Labs to manage a research group and eventually did my PhD at UW Biology. While the systems have changed, my research has always focused on food and physiology from individual to ecosystem scales.
 
What attracted you to the MarineGEO fellowship?
I love field stations and field station people. My research has taken me to field stations around the world and I cherish the connections made and the lessons learned. The MarineGEO fellowship centers research questions on the relationships among scientists and institutions. It’s a powerful way to do science, and looked really fun. I wanted the opportunity to develop research questions with input from experts from different systems and with different experiences.
 
Tell us a little bit about your proposed work
During the MarineGEO fellowship I will be working with Whitman Miller, Rachel Collin and other partners to study the drivers of habitat-scale variation of carbonate chemistry. We know from a wealth of lab studies that CO2 and pH affect the physiology of aquatic organisms. We are learning that the metabolism of aquatic organisms also affects CO2 and pH at biologically relevant scales. While global anthropogenic ocean acidification is a major issue, these ecologically-driven CO2 changes can be a larger magnitude and align with sensitive life history events. Understanding carbonate chemistry change as an ecological process will improve predictions about the impacts of global climate change.
 
What do you like to do for fun?
I like eating new things. I like to spend time on in or under the water.
 
What is your favorite marine creature?
I get really excited when I find sea urchins or abalone catching drift algae. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as getting a spine hug from a red sea urchin or feeding a wild abalone a piece of detritus.