Climate Resilience Specialist Joins California Sea Grant

Climate resilience specialist Alex Harper has joined the extension team at California Sea Grant, CSG announced in late October. In her new role, Harper is expected to focus on strengthening coastal resilience and growing the Blue Economy through high-quality ocean information sharing.

Harper joins CSG while also working as a program manager with the Central of Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS), where she oversees the regional ocean observing and spearheads activities related to ocean acidification, hypoxia, marine carbon dioxide removal, as well as tribal and stakeholder engagement and communications.

“Ocean observing is being the eyes and the ears of the ocean,” said Harper, who draws data from oceanographic buoys and sensors on piers that measure temperature, salinity, waves, winds and other physical and chemical factors, as well as ecosystem biology parameters.

She and a team of data scientists and software engineers will work on providing up-to-date and high-quality ocean information to fisheries and communities by building information dashboards, then customize them.

“Different stakeholders find different information relevant,” Harper said. “Water quality managers might want to know when offshore waters will arrive near shore in upwelling events; shellfish growers need to be warned when the water becomes too acidic to plant seed oysters; Dungeness crab fishers are interested in oxygen levels. “If there’s no oxygen in the deep water, the crab won’t be there.”

She added that by getting high-quality, up-to-date ocean information to users, she and her team would enhance resilience to changing and extreme conditions, with a goal of improving outcomes for fisheries and aquaculture while also protecting people and ecosystems.

Her focus is on the North Coast, a hub of California’s Blue Economy that features ample fisheries and a booming shellfish aquaculture economy. Climate change poses challenges to these productive fisheries, due to more frequent and extreme conditions and increased hazards.

Previously, Harper was a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ocean Acidification Program and a program analyst with NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System. She has a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography and an M.S. in aquatic sciences.