Dr. Heidi Pearson of UAS collaborates with international colleagues on marine biology and climate change research
The paper, published in the science journal One Earth this month, is a collaboration between Ms. Angela Martin at the Centre for Coastal Research at the University of Agder in Norway, Dr. Heidi Pearson at UAS, Dr. Esben Moland Olsen at the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, and Dr. Grace Saba at Rutgers University.
Date of Press Release: June 1, 2021
Dr. Heidi Pearson, Associate Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) recently co-authored a paper titled “Integral functions of marine vertebrates in the ocean carbon cycle and climate change mitigation.” The paper, published in the science journal One Earth this month, is a collaboration between Ms. Angela Martin at the Centre for Coastal Research at the University of Agder in Norway, Dr. Heidi Pearson at UAS, Dr. Esben Moland Olsen at the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, and Dr. Grace Saba at Rutgers University.
The brief overview of the paper from One Earth states, “Marine vertebrates are not widely considered as components of the ocean carbon cycle, yet they influence carbon in numerous ways. This review gives a picture of the current understanding of the function of marine vertebrates in the ocean carbon sink and gaps in our knowledge. With growing political interest in natural carbon sinks as a means to reduce the impacts of climate change, this research provides food for thought for society, scientists, policymakers, and practitioners.”
Lead author Angela Martin noted, “Alongside emissions reductions, managing ocean ecosystems for their capacity to store greenhouse gases long term can be a complementary solution to reduce the impacts of climate change. The ocean can store greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide through carbon pumps. We know that fish and other marine animals interact with the biological carbon pump in multiple ways, but more information is needed to know the overall balance of animals' influence on carbon storage in the ocean. Our research has shown that the effects of animals on carbon are complex and not easy to estimate. Fish and other animals accumulate, move, and release carbon and other nutrients; the conditions in the water where it is released also affects what happens to the carbon and nutrients. The next steps are to find out how much carbon is stored by fish and animals, and for how long it stays in the ocean. Collaborations among different types of scientists will be needed to get these answers.” Ms. Martin is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Coastal Research at the University of Agder, based in Norway.
This paper is part of Dr. Pearson’s research on ‘blue carbon’, which refers to the natural processes through which the ocean stores carbon and is a potentially innovative strategy for marine conservation and climate change mitigation. Dr. Pearson recently presented her research in an April workshop on Ecosystem Functioning of Cetaceans - A Gap Analysis, an invitation-only session in which the International Whaling Commission (IWC) sought data from experts in their field to examine the current state of knowledge on the ecosystem roles of cetaceans. Pearson’s presentation centered on a synthesis of the role of cetaceans in nutrient & carbon cycling. Pearson noted, “It was a privilege to represent UAS and the United States at this IWC meeting. My involvement was an outcome of my Fulbright fellowship to Norway in 2018.”
Pearson’s Fulbright fellowship focused on translating the latest blue carbon science into communicable and actionable forms for policy makers, conservation managers, and the public. As a Fulbright Scholar, she worked with her host institution, GRID-Arendal, in Arendal, Norway, a Norwegian Foundation that is also part of UN Environment.
Dr. Pearson earned her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Duke University where she double-majored in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, as well as Biology. As an Associate Professor of Marine Biology at UAS, she teaches courses in Marine Mammalogy, Marine Ornithology, and Herpetology, among others. In addition to working with the Department of Natural Sciences at UAS, she is jointly appointed to the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She heads the Behavioral Research and Ecosystem Health (BREACH) lab that researches the behavior and ecology of marine mammals, and their role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Learn about marine biology and other science degrees available at the University of Alaska Southeast by visiting the UAS Areas of Study website or by speaking to an advisor at 907-796-6100.
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