Meet our researcher in Scotland: Kelsey Archer Barnhill

In this Q&A series we get to know One Ocean Hub researchers.
One Ocean Hub researcher Kelsey Archer Barnhill on a boat.

Kelsey Archer Barnhill

Kelsey Archer Barnhill is a deep sea ecology PhD researcher at the University of Edinburgh exploring climate change impacts on cold-water corals.

Why did you become interested in researching the ocean, Kelsey?

I was shocked to learn during an introductory oceanography course in my Bachelors that we have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of the deep sea. This sense of ongoing exploration and the fact there is so much to discover about the ocean inspired me to pursue a career in deep sea research.

What major concerns do you have related to the oceans?

My major concern about the ocean is the lack of knowledge we have about the deep sea. How can we best work to protect and conserve habitats we know so little about? I fear anthropogenic impacts could destroy some deep sea habitats before we even know they exist.

How would you describe your current research in three sentences?

My research focuses on climate change-induced impacts to deep sea reef ecosystems. Through using laboratory mesocosms to run year-long experiments on live corals and coral skeletons, my work will allow better understanding of physiological and structural responses of reef framework-forming corals to ocean acidification, warming, and deoxygenation. These results will be combined with ROV footage analysis quantifying the ratio of alive to dead corals to create carbonate budget models to predict reef futures in projected ocean scenarios.

How does your work help us to re-think the current ocean issues/challenges?

The majority of experiments done on cold-water corals focus on exploring live coral responses to climate change. By combining live and skeletal coral impacts, I hope to push cold-water coral future predictions from an individual organism response to a reef ecosystem approach.

What are the aspects of working in a collaborative environment such as the One Ocean Hub that you value the most?

As a PhD student, I value One Ocean Hub’s Early Career Researcher meetings and trainings. It is great to be engaged and connected with other Hub ECRs across disciplines.

What keeps you going/motivates you in your research?

Discovery! The eagerness to explore that initially led me to the deep sea continues to motivate my research.

The One Ocean Hub aims to transform ocean governance. How does your research contribute to it?

The goal for my research is to contribute to mathematical models for end-of-the-century cold-water coral futures. I hope to help inform ocean governance by identifying when and where future cold-water coral reef systems will be at risk.