Spencer Showalter, Boston Univ. and NOAA NWFSC

Spencer Showalter after a long day of snorkeling while doing research on fungal diseases in the purple sea fan in Turneffe Atoll, Belize.

Undergraduate, Boston University and Ernest F. Hollings Intern, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Bio: I grew up in Alameda, CA, and spent many Monday nights in high school working with stranded seals and sea lions. I became interested in harmful algal blooms through their neurotoxic impact on California Sea Lions, and am beyond excited to be working on this project. My long-lasting love for these charismatic pinnipeds pushes me to learn more about the conditions that force them into our care. In the past, I’ve researched fungal diseases in sea fans, phytoplankton abundance in the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary, and parental negotiation in orange clownfish. In my spare time, I am a lighting designer for student musical productions, an origami enthusiast, and an occasional typographer.

What I’m doing on this cruise: I’m part of the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center team that is studying Pseudo-nitzschia, a marine phytoplankton that causes harmful algal blooms on the U.S. West Coast.  In 2015, the toxin produced by Pseudo-nitzschia, domoic acid, caused millions of dollars of losses to coastal economies through the closure of the lucrative razor clam, Dungeness crab and rock crab fisheries. Our goal on this cruise is to map the distribution of Pseudo-nitzschia cells and their toxin, but more importantly, to identify the environmental factors (including pH) that make it so successful, especially in a warming ocean.