Emily Slesinger


The ocean has always been home to me. I grew up along the beaches of San Diego, and would take annual family vacations to Cape Cod, which probably sparked my earliest intrigue into marine science as I started comparing the different oceans. And while I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean and the life within, it wasn’t until undergraduate that I realized that I was serious about perusing a career in marine biology. I graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz where I received a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies. While at UCSC, I interned in an invertebrate ecology lab, studying krill population dynamics in the Monterey Bay. In order to obtain krill samples, I went on a few NOAA scientific cruises that traversed the California coast from San Francisco down to San Diego and back, sampling primarily for juvenile rockfish. On these research cruises I realized my true passion lied in fish biology so after graduation, I interned at NOAA SWFSC in Santa Cruz assisting studies on rockfish fecundity and recruitment.

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I am currently pursing my Ph.D. under Dr. Grace Saba.  My research focus is on studying the effects of climate change on economically and ecologically valuable North Atlantic fish.  Specifically, I study the physiology of fish to relate how they may be negatively impacted or acclimate to a changing ocean.  My current project is finding the thermal optimum for black sea bass.  We do this by measuring black sea bass aerobic scope, the difference between their maximum and resting metabolic rates, at a range of temperatures to see which temperature promotes the highest scope.  This is considered their thermal optimum.  Since we can’t measure metabolic rate directly, we use oxygen consumption, which can be measured in respirometry chambers.  The data from this project will be used to create habitat models that will predict where black sea bass may migrate to as ocean temperature rises along the Northeast Shelf.  When I’m not taking care of and testing my cohort of experimental black sea bass, I enjoy anything outdoors such as hiking, fishing, running, traveling, learning how to deal with real winter, and going to the beach.   When I’m indoors, I enjoy making popcorn and then eating it.

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Black sea bass in respirometry chamber (left) and the entire chamber-computer system set up (right).

Austin Grubb

Austin Grubb

Being born and raised near a small state park in a rural part of south-central Pennsylvania helped me develop a love for the natural world at an early age. Though I grew up in landlocked PA, the ocean, and especially marine life, was as fascinating to me as the green areas on land that I saw every day. Biology class in high school reaffirmed my curiosity about living things and by the end of high school, I knew I wanted to study biology in college. I ended up in an even more rural part of central PA, at Susquehanna University, a small liberal arts school, where I studied biology and Spanish. Named after its proximity to the Susquehanna River, SU gave me ample opportunities to study freshwater ecosystems. As a senior, I studied benthic, microalgae known as diatoms and used their community composition as a bioindicator of water quality below the confluence of the Susquehanna River. After studying abroad in Costa Rica, I completed a research internship at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, where I studied diatoms that were suspended in the water column (and therefore a part of the phytoplankton). My interest in phytoplankton grew tremendously during my time at URI GSO.

Austin Grub

Now, I am a Ph.D. student in the Oceanography program working with Dr. Kay Bidle and Dr. Kim Thamatrakoln. I study a group of phytoplankton known as coccolithophores. In addition to supporting food webs through photosynthesis, coccolithophores produce and secrete intricate calcium carbonate plates that cover each cell. The production of these inorganic carbon plates or coccoliths along with the fixation of carbon via photosynthesis make coccolithophores key players in the global carbon cycle and carbon export. My thesis addresses one of the biggest questions in coccolithophore research: why do coccolithophores calcify and what are the costs and benefits of calcification for coccolithophores at a cellular and ecosystem level? My work, and the work of other members of our lab, uses the model organism Emiliania huxleyi to address this key question by investigating several factors that are impacted by calcification, including growth, photosynthesis, and viral infection.

Austin Grubb