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Dr. Gretchen Hofmann is an eco-physiologist whose research focuses on the effects of climate and climate change on the performance of marine species. In particular, her recent work investigates the impact on marine organisms of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations via global warming and ocean acidification. Dr. Hofmann studies how such environmental changes influence the regulation of mechanisms within the body that impact development, geographic distribution and survival.
To study the effects of temperature on physiological performance Dr. Hofmann has conducted research at broad geographic scales examining species across climates, information which may also be used as a proxy for predicting the response of organisms in one location through time under climate change scenarios. She has also done extensive work in Antarctica studying marine fishes and invertebrates that are highly evolved to polar climates and may be particularly sensitive to global warming. Her research has explored the specific temperature responses of these polar organisms, and identified physiological mechanisms which these and other more temperate species may employ in response to thermal stresses in their environments.
Dr. Hofmann is also involved in research on ocean acidification, or the gradual reduction in ocean pH by the seawater’s uptake of atmospheric CO2. Recent government reports project ocean acidification to increase over the next century and have significant impacts on shell-forming organisms as they build and maintain their hard structures. However the overall physiological response that organisms will have under these “acidified” seawater conditions is still being determined. Studies by Dr. Hofmann and her collaborators are identifying key developmental challenges for the sensitive larval stages of marine species in acidified waters, and gene pathways that may play a role in those processes. She is also investigating the combined effects of temperature and acidity, in order to better understand how marine species will cope with the dual challenges of global warming and ocean acidification in the coming century.