Meet Claudine Hauri

Claudine Hauri is a Research Assistant Professor with the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.  Hailing from Switzerland, she came to UAF in 2012 and focuses on ocean acidification and the carbon system. 

Q: What drew you to the study of ocean acidification in Alaska?
I moved to Alaska almost five years ago, and I fell in love with its beautiful landscapes, richness of culture, diverse wildlife, and exciting seasons. My passion for living in Alaska helps me develop new research ideas to tackle the challenges our state faces from climate change and ocean acidification. Preserving Alaska’s beauty and natural resources is an immensely important task. I believe we owe that to the native peoples of Alaska and future generations to come.

Q: What element of OA do you work on, and where?
I am a chemical oceanographer, and I’m interested in how different physical, biological, and chemical processes alter pH and the rest of the carbon system in high-latitude regions. These natural processes are important, as they can weaken or enhance ocean acidification. For example, while seasonal sea ice and glacial melt further enhance OA, phytoplankton blooms can temporally weaken the OA effects.

These processes are bound to change in the future, with unprecedented consequences for marine ecosystems—especially in Alaska, a bellwether for climate change and OA around the US. Over the years I have acquired a diverse set of tools, including work with oceanographic observations, biogeochemical modeling, and the development of new, autonomous ways for measuring carbon (e.g., a carbon-profiling glider).

Since I also have a MSc degree in Biology, I also enjoy working with marine ecologists, linking my knowledge of field and model oceanographic studies with experimental biological studies to help improve our understanding of biological responses from marine organisms to ocean acidification and global change.

Q: What are some of the most notable thigns you’ve learned about OA in Alaska or in general? 
Even though ocean acidification can be described simply as the global decrease of seawater pH due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, it manifests itself in many complex ways. pH does not decrease at the same rate across the globe, nor are there any single thresholds that affect all organisms within a particular species equally. The rate of change in pH, influence of climate change on pH, and the consequences for organisms vary from region to region.

As with many other research fields, the more we find out about OA, the more we realize that we only understand the tip of this iceberg.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for a research in the OA field? 
Communication about the issues of ocean acidification is an important, but very challenging, aspect of a researcher’s work. While we do not have an answer to every question yet, it is timely to make the public aware of the potential consequences of OA.

Close collaborations between OA experts, social scientists, and communication specialists will help to more effectively communicate the challenges of OA. These efforts must be supported by Universities and funding agencies alike.

Q: What is a really memorable moment from your time in the field or in the lab?
Each summer I am a leader for “Inspiring Girls Expeditions,” tuition-free wilderness and science programs for teenage girls with limited opportunities. Exploring the Alaskan wilderness with these highly motivated young ladies over twelve days is the highlight of my work each year.

During this time, I get to transfer my excitement and love for science, wilderness, and outdoor activities to young women who may otherwise never get this kind of experience. It’s so rewarding to see their self-confidence grow when they summit a mountain, cross a raging river, or successfully complete a science experiment.

I am currently developing a new variation of this program called “Girls in Icy Fjords,” aimed at introducing these young women to the science of high latitude marine environments, with a special focus on ocean acidification and climate change.

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