The goal of my research is to ultimately enhance our capability of predict responses of marine ecosystems to long-term and abrupt changes in the environment. I am particularly interested in understanding the vulnerability of the coastal biome to environmental issues such as harmful algal blooms and hypoxic events, the frequency and magnitude of which are linked to both climate and anthropogenic forcing. Specifically, I seek to understand within the context of high-resolution simulations of Earth System Models 1) the key physical and biogeochemical processes underpinning these environmental issues and, 2) the associated time scales that determine not only productivity and community composition within the coastal systems, but also the rates of lateral material (e.g. carbon and nitrogen) transport between the land and open-ocean interface. These studies are aimed at addressing the impact of environmental changes on coastal ecosystem services and human well-being, the role that the coastal ocean plays in global carbon cycling, and how this role may change in the prospect of global climate change.

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This video displays the global distribution of chlorophyll concentration (a proxy for the amount of algae in the ocean) simulated by a numerical climate model called Earth System Model v2.6 developed at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. Climate models like ESM2.6 are often composed of fully coupled systems including the atmosphere, the ocean, the land, and in some models the ice as well, which are all essential components of the Earth. Changes in the dynamics of these systems make significant impact on each other. For example, release of excessive CO2 from the land to the atmosphere is causing a rising temperature which has modified both the atmospheric and oceanic circulations. The consequences are numerous. One of the many is an increasing number of drought events which has impacted many land plants and, more importantly, human beings ourselves. A second example is the spreading of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) in the ocean, which is related to a reduced ventilation rate between the ocean and the atmospheric as a result of warming-induced stratification. Such OMZs can be hazardous to many friendly animals that live in the ocean interior who need oxygen to survive. In the face of global climate change, predictive tools such as climate models are urgently needed in order to help us understand the anticipated impact on global ecosystems and the quality of our life. One important goal of my research is to improve the capacity (e.g. efficiency and accuracy) of model predictions on the impact of future global climate change.