Have a Question about the Ocean? Ask the Expert!
By Kate Mackey

Kate Mackey Lab photoKate Mackey (top), Clare Boothe Luce
Assistant Professor of Earth System Science,
consults with doctoral researcher Raisha
Lovindeer about their phytoplankton cultures.
Photo by Steve Zylius/UCI
Editor’s note: The Amigos de Bolsa Chica is excited to have the ear of oceanographer Kate Mackey who wants to answer your questions about the ocean. Please read about Kate’s work below and send your questions for her in an email titled “Question for Kate” to info@amigosdebolsachica.org. The answers will be shared in future editions of the Tern Tide and on social media.

Mackey Lab in the fieldKate Mackey (left), graduate student
Johann Lopez (middle), and
undergraduate student Araceli Serrano
(right) setting up an experiment on
mercury cycling in San Elijo Lagoon.
Photo by Priya Ganguli/CSUN
Have you ever wondered how wetlands support so many different types of plants and animals, or what happens to pollutants when they make it into the coastal ocean, or how global change will affect the ocean in the future? These are the types of questions I love to answer! I am Kate Mackey, an Assistant Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.

I study marine phytoplankton, the microscopic “plants of the sea,” that do half of all photosynthesis on Earth. They directly influence global climate and make half the oxygen you breathe, yet how they will respond to future global change is unknown. As an oceanographer who takes an integrative, interdisciplinary approach to research, I study the biological and chemical activity of phytoplankton from the cellular level up to global distributions of species. I use culture studies in the laboratory to characterize cells, and use field work to verify lab findings, identify the range of responses from natural populations, and determine their implications in nature.

I lead a large, dynamic lab of talented graduate and undergraduate students who work together and share a passion for research, teaching, science outreach, and promoting diversity in academia. We travel the world studying the ocean, but we also do a lot of work right here in Southern California (check out some of our projects on the lab’s website, www.katemackey.com). We study everything from mercury cycling in lagoons to assessing the impact of ash from fires on our coastal ecosystems – and we want to answer your questions about the ocean.