Gretchen Hofmann created a team of climate change outreach specialists who are skilled in communication about issues important to the California coast.

Gretchen Hofmann is a professor and Chair in the department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at UC Santa Barbara. She holds an MS and a PhD in Environmental, Population, and Organismal Biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Gretchen is committed to communicating science to broad audiences and is an Aldo Leopold Fellow (2009).

Gretchen also puts her knowledge into action. She is a member of California’s Ocean Protection Council’s Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel and served as a US delegate to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Workshop on Ocean Acidification in Japan. Finally, she contributed to the National Research Council’s report on ocean acidification policy and is a lead author on a chapter in the Third National Climate Assessment.

To learn more about Gretchen and her lab visit her website.

Gretchen is tackling ocean acidification and talking about it.

Broadly, Gretchen is a marine biologist and focuses on the responses of marine species to future ocean changes, such as ocean acidification. Her lab group is trying to understand whether marine species can adapt to future climate-related ocean changes in California and Antarctica.

Gretchen’s main research focus is ocean acidification. This is the gradual decrease in ocean pH due to the water’s uptake of atmospheric CO2. This significantly affects how shell-forming organisms build and maintain their hard shells. The overall response that these organisms will have in “acidified” water is still being determined. Gretchen and her collaborators are identifying challenges for marine animals. She is also investigating the combined effects of temperature and ocean acidification in order to understand the complexity of global warming in the future.

Gretchen is filling data gaps and creating a team of outreach specialists.

Ocean acidification is an active area of research, but there are two gaps in this research. First, there is limited data on the variability of interacting stressors in coastal ecosystems. Second, there is limited understanding on how and if organisms will respond to these changes. Gretchen is collaborating with the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research Network to fill these gaps. Specifically, she will answer:

  1. What is the variability of pH and oxygen in the kelp forest ecosystem?
  2. How do species in this forest respond to both low pH and oxygen?

Along with filling these research gaps, Gretchen is committed to connecting with broad audiences. She is organizing a joint science and art show with Lily Simonson. Lily Simonson is a painter who has worked in the Antarctic and paints the same organisms that Gretchen is focusing on. Also, Gretchen will continue to collaborate with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and will reach out to the local sea urchin diving community to encourage citizen science. Gretchen is writing articles on ocean global change biology in California.

Currently, Gretchen is putting together a team of outreach specialists on climate change issues that are important to the California coast. This undergraduate team at UC Santa Barbara is focused on how ocean acidification may affect food security.  

Tracking Ocean pH Levels

A green pH sensor attached to rocky ground covered in marine life underwater.

This photo shows a pH sensor at one of Gretchen’s coastal field sites. With this sensor, she can track how ocean pH levels are changing over time. Credit: Gretchen Hofmann


• Filled data gaps on marine organisms

• Collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the sea urchin diving community

• Created a team of outreach specialists on climate change issues that are important to the California Coast

• Wrote two National Science Foundation proposals during the award period and received funding for both


Gretchen Hoffman holds a sea urchin partially covering her face
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