Newcomb,Laura

Graduate Student
newcombl@uw.edu

Research Interests

My research interests are focused on the ecomechanics of organisms inhabiting rocky shores.  In the rocky intertidal, organisms must deal with daily fluctuations in temperature stress, desiccation, and wave action.  These organisms have evolved structures suited to allow them to thrive in this environment.  However, future changes in ocean temperature, pH, and food supply may impact the material properties and mechanics of these structures, in turn, affecting organismal performance.

Mussels are one such intertidal organism whose attachment strength, and thus ability to serve as a competitive dominant on rocky shores may be threatened by changing ocean temperature and pH.  Mussels attach to the shore to resist dislodgement through the use of their extracellular collagenous byssal threads. Up to 50 byssal threads help keep a mussel anchored in place as they extend without breaking under force. Reductions in byssal thread strength lead to mussel fall-off, a problem for both the intertidal communities mussel beds support and for mussel aquaculture. My research is focused on measuring how rising temperature and ocean acidification affect the strength, extensibility, and production of byssal threads in several Mytilus species to better understand what a changing ocean will mean for the mussels and the communities they help to anchor.

I am a fellow on UW’s IGERT Program on Ocean Change (https://depts.washington.edu/igertpoc/) where I am working to (1) gain experience making connections between my own research and policy decisions, (2) build upon communication skills with non-scientists, and (3) make connections and partnerships with the aquaculture industry.