September 29th 2014 – Natalie Hicks, Scottish Association for Marine Science

Natalie HicksDespite being born in a landlocked country (Zimbabwe), I discovered a love for marine science during my Zoology degree at Aberdeen University, which was followed up by a marine benthic PhD at St Andrews. I now work at the Scottish Association for Marine Science as a researcher in benthic biogeochemistry, with a bit of teaching thrown in for good measure.

Under the broad title of ‘marine scientist’, I work mainly in soft sediment coastal habitats (sand and mud). I have a strong interest in environmental change, loosely termed climate change, and much of my work experimentally manipulates temperature and CO2 levels to mimic potential future scenarios. I am interested in how these systems are likely to respond to these predicted changes, caused by human activity, and what this means for the animals that live in these habitats.

Marine sediments not only provide a habitat for many species, they play a vital role in global nutrient cycling, such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Primary producers (such as microphytobenthos) in these habitats contribute to a significant proportion of carbon production. Climate driven changes in these systems is likely to result in shifts within the food web, affecting the ecosystem services that these habitats provide to many species, including humans. By identifying how these systems may respond, and the different species interactions within them, we can use this knowledge to help mitigate environmental change and minimise anthropogenic impacts on coastal marine ecosystems

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