Next Generation: Christina Goethel

November 1, 2018
Graduate student Christina Goethel is studying how a changing environment is impact several species of clams in the Arctic.

Hometown: Galt, CA
Advisor: Dr. Jacqueline Grebmeier, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

What are you researching? I am examining changes in the populations of several clam species over the last 30 years in the Pacific Arctic Region (Alaska). I am interested in how ongoing shifts in environmental drivers such as declining sea ice, sediment chlorophyll-a concentrations, increased bottom water temperatures, and ocean acidification can affect these organisms.

Christina Goethel and her advisorJackie Grebmeier (left) examine samples of life from the bottom of the Chukchi Sea.

Why does it make a difference? It makes a difference because these organisms are the prey base for a lot of higher trophic organisms such as the spectacled eider (diving seaduck), Pacific walrus, and gray whales many of which are both economically and culturally important species to the native communities along the Alaskan coast.

How did you get interested in environmental science? I became interested in environmental and marine science after spending several summers helping my aunt beach comb for items for her marine science outreach program. In high school, I traveled to the Eastern Arctic and fell in love with it and decided I wanted to learn more about such a rapidly changing environment.

Why choose the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science? I started as a Master’s student in June of 2014 and in 2017, I became a Ph.D. student. My advisors, Dr. Jackie Grebmeier and Dr. Lee Cooper, are the main reason I chose UMCES. I had heard their names many times after expressing my interests to a college advisor and other scientists I met in various programs. Their projects are very comprehensive and create a larger overarching picture of the ecosystem, while still having their own focuses on the biological aspects of the benthic system and the environmental drivers I mentioned earlier.

Share an experience that stands out most about your time with UMCES. I have spent the last six summers on various research cruises in the Arctic with my advisors. Anytime I am on a boat stands out to me, but I think my first cruise as their student stands out the most, as it was in those moments I knew I had chosen the right advisor, program, and project. Field season is always memorable and my favorite part of the year because we work with a large network of people from all around the world, in the environment we spend the rest of the year trying to understand.

What’s the most important thing people can do to help the environment? I think educating themselves on the issues surrounding the environment is one of the best things people can do. If we don’t understand or learn about the problems, we can’t develop and later implement the solutions. I also always think the classic is a great go to: reduce, reuse, and recycle!