Evan Barba

 
PhD Student
PI: Rob Toonen

Life in our oceans is currently facing an assortment of anthropogenic stressors, taking place at an unprecedented rate. Increasing temperatures, nutrient availability, and carbon dioxide levels are all rapidly influencing the biology of marine systems. Overall, my research explores biological responses to ocean change, including (i) detecting signals of local adaptation to ocean acidification and thermal stress, (ii) responses of cryptic invertebrates to reef-wide coral bleaching events, and (iii) individual acclimatization ad plasticity to changing conditions. It is important that the scientific community comes together to assess how and where these changes manifest, what organisms can and will be affected, as well as the scope of the impacts.

Distilled down, organisms have four basic responses to a changing environment: Migration, acclimation, adaptation, or extinction. Migration can be an effective strategy when moving to a more favorable microclimate is possible. For many sessile organisms, this takes considerable time, over the course of generations. Acclimatization, or the ability to gradually maintain a t

olerance to change is another strategy to respond to a changing environment. However, this ability is not equal among all species and some have much more narrow tolerance levels and individual ability to cope with changes. The third response, adaptation, is what I am extremely excited about investigating. The ability for an organism to adapt and alter their physiological machinery (via

 

 genetic changes) may take longer than acclimation, but the potential benefits are optimistic. Utilizing molecular approaches to investigate the questions that interest me has also lead to a vested interest and excitement in bioinformatics – essential to analyzing massive quantities of genetic information.

In addition, I am also collaborating with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — Locally, as the He’eia National Estuarine Research Reserve System Graduate Research Fellow, and throughout the Pacific as a partnering scientist with NOAA’s Ecosystem Sciences Division’s aboard several Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program research cruises.

Since I began diving in the field, my perception of the ocean has very much changed for the better. I am very fortunate to have had opportunities to see the system I love and study. My personal fascination has led to an enthusiasm for underwater photography. I use this hobby as a channel to share what I see with others that may not be able to have the same opportunities. I would recommend anyone who has been curious about diving to take any opportunity you can to get out there and explore. I am a NAUI Divemaster and would be happy to accompany any other enthusiastic divers!”