March 31, 2023

March 2023 | By Nicole Foster

Tell us about your background

I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia and completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Adelaide. My research interests center around coastal and marine plant conservation and overall, applying research to better manage marine environments and safeguard them for the future. Specifically, during my PhD research, I applied environmental DNA to document historical changes in coastal plant communities. I developed a novel molecular method to recover coastal plant DNA from dated sediment cores, achieving species level identifications. This high-resolution reconstruction of coastal plant communities through time, enables human impact to be contextualized in the context of historical change. This is particularly useful when forecasting the future of coastal plant communities. I am interested in applied research and finding innovative ways to protect current and future marine habitats.  

A picture containing outdoor, sport, water sport, swimmingDescription automatically generatedNicole enjoying diving at Port Noarlunga, South Australia. 

What attracted you to MarineGEO? 

I was attracted to MarineGEO for its worldwide collaborations. The network established by MarineGEO fosters international and collaborative research, and this is the sort of environment I want to work in. MarineGEO is interested in using molecular methods for monitoring marine biodiversity and as my PhD research was in environmental DNA, I thought my expertise aligned well with their goals. I like the objectives of MarineGEO and there is a clear goal to conserve and protect marine ecosystems, which is something that I am very passionate about. MarineGEO partners comprise a wide range of backgrounds and research interests centered on marine science. For me, this is an ideal environment to learn new skills and find out about interesting research that is different to my own. 

A scuba diver under waterDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

Nicole diving in the Florida Keys. 

Tell us a little about your work with MarineGEO 

I am a MarineGEO Postdoctoral Research Fellow. My primary responsibility is helping to manage the new network-wide research project called BEACON (Biodiversity and Energy Availability across a Coastal Ocean Network). This project combines environmental DNA of water samples with biogeochemical analyses to understand the relationship between productivity (available carbon) and marine consumer diversity. Working with the MarineGEO network partners, sampling will be conducted worldwide, generating information at spatial scales that would otherwise be difficult to sample. This will increase our understanding of biodiversity differences across marine environments and how these are shaped by environmental conditions. We will also better comprehend marine consumer diversity changes associated with human alterations to the environment such as increased riverine transport of organic matter. Further, we can investigate how these environmental conditions may alter the trophic structure of marine consumers, shedding light on drivers of ecosystem change in marine environments.

What do you do for fun? 

Being a marine scientist, I am always up for anything to do with the ocean, whether this be diving, snorkeling, surfing or just spending time at the beach. This is where I have the most fun and like to spend my time. Other than that, I love anything outdoors, going for bike rides or hiking. I also really enjoy camping and am excited to explore camping sites in the US. If I am indoors, I will be more than happy to curl up with a good book.