Getting to Know U

Nancy Muehllehner

Getting to Know U

Nancy Muehllehner

Hometown:
Wayne, PA
Intended Degree:
PhD, Marine Biology and Physics

Nancy Muehllehner

For an environmentalist, there are few things more undeniably harder to accept than the changing of the chemistry of all our oceanic water due to the human production of carbon dioxide.  The term ocean acidification has become a lot more commonplace, but its effects were much less understood when Nancy began her master’s research at California State University, Northridge.  Though she was the only student there pursuing the subject, the complexities of coral growth and their response to changing carbonate levels in seawater was the hook that caught Nancy, and so, hook line and sinker, she was caught and entered into a PhD program at RSMAS with Dr Chris Langdon, the leading expert on ocean acidification.  His pioneering work at the Biosphere in Arizona showed the consistently linear relationship between one seawater parameter, aragonite saturation state, and coral calcification rates that proves that dropping pH due to ocean acidification will slow, stop and eventually reverse coral reef growth.

Nancy’s research has now expanded beyond the organismal scale to look at the local coastal waters of Florida with the goal of understanding how the movement of water over the reef is affected by the biology of the underlying reef.  By studying reef waters in these ways, Nancy hopes to understand how the local photosynthesis, for example of seagrass beds and macroalgae, can affect coastal aragonite saturation state levels.  While the oceanic drivers of ocean acidification are undeniable and unstoppable, the local factors that influence it are much less understood and can both exaggerate and mitigate the chemical conditions of the incoming oceanic waters.

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