How I Sea: Coral Biogeochemist, Emma Camp

Source: The TerraMar Project

Photo: Emma Camp

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Emma is a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney. She was also selected this year by the United Nations as a Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals. In short, Emma is a marine biogeochemist focusing on the impacts that changing environmental conditions and climate change are having on the world’s coral reefs.

Quick background about yourself: where you’re from, your profession, what connects you to the sea.

I am originally from Essex, England and am now based in Sydney, Australia.

Ever since I was a child I have been in awe of the ocean and its marine life. I remember the first time I went snorkeling on a coral reef with my father, I was only 7 years old. I was mesmerized by the beauty and life that was hiding just below the surface – this was my first connection with coral reefs.

As I got older and learned more about their value, but also vulnerability, I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist to try and preserve coral reefs for future generations.

How I Sea

Photo: Emma Camp

Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing with coral reefs right now? What are some of your goals for the future?

I work on extreme corals, these are corals living in environments that are considered hostile and sub-optimal for coral growth and survival.

I study the molecular and physiological changes corals employ to live in these environments to better understand the changes corals will require to survive into the future as the climate changes.

Through my research I hope to:

1) Identify potential areas of refuge for corals that could become important future sources of corals

2) See if extreme corals can better withstand coral bleaching and acidification stress. If yes, can they be used in adaptive reef management

3) Identify the trade-offs corals will have to make to survive climate change, and thus, how reefs may survive into the future.

How I Sea

Photo: Emma Camp

What do you think is the biggest threat facing our world’s coral reefs?

Climate Change.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study coral reefs and pursue a career in marine biology?

Firstly never give up on your dreams, it is a competitive area but if you work hard enough and seek opportunities you can succeed.

I recommend looking for internships and study-abroad opportunities to get experience working in a research/conservation environment.

I also recommend acquiring skills that can be applied to a marine biology position, but are different from the skills most people may have. For example, my background is in chemistry but I apply this to coral reefs.

What gives you hope for the future of coral reefs?

It is not too late if we act now.

We still have amazing coral reefs worldwide. If we take action to reduce climate change and reduce local pressures we can secure a future for coral reefs.

What’s one thing that anybody could do from home to help protect coral reefs?

Engage in the problems and be part of the solutions.

Climate change is the biggest threat to the world’s coral reefs, so take action to reduce your own carbon footprint, but also expect more from your governments and hold them accountable to their global commitments and promises.

How I Sea is a new effort by The TerraMar Project to dive into the minds of our global ocean community. We highlight opinions on conservation issues such as: marine pollution, overfishing, drilling, climate change, marine protected areas, scientific discoveries, and much more. Stay tuned for more.

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