As you would expect from someone passionate about ocean ecosystems, Jerome Fiechter grew up in a small town in mountainous, land-locked Switzerland. He spent most of his teenage years skiing and shoveling snow, until he discovered scuba diving. After two trips to Egypt to explore the beautiful coral reefs of the Red Sea, he was hooked. Jerome went on to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science where he focused his dissertation on the physical and biological processes impacting primary production and larval transport along the Florida Keys reef tract. A highlight of this research was to participate in diving trips to assess coral reef health in the Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve.
In 2007, Jerome started as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz under the mentorship of Professor Andrew Moore of the Ocean Sciences Department, and in the process, abandoned Miami’s warm-water diving to take on Santa Cruz’s cold-water surfing. After working for a few years on ecosystem models and data assimilation for the Gulf of Alaska region, he became an Assistant Researcher with UCSC’s Institute of Marine Sciences and started focusing his research on physical and biological processes affecting ecosystem dynamics along the west coast of the U.S. In particular, Jerome has been using advanced numerical modeling tools to investigate how ocean circulation at local, regional, and basin scales impacts biogeochemical cycling (e.g., air-sea CO2 exchange) and food web interactions (e.g., foraging ecology of key marine species) in the broader California Current upwelling system. Recent results include:
- A detailed description of the spatial and temporal scales over which coastal and oceanic waters of the California Current upwelling system contribute as sources and sinks to the global carbon budget (Fiechter et al., Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2014)
- An “end-to-end” modeling study of ocean conditions associated with coastal upwelling and climate variability that control long-term fluctuations of sardine and anchovy population abundances in the California Current System (Fiechter et al., Progress in Oceanography, 2015).
- A novel approach for predicting shifts in sea lion distributions and growth patterns of juvenile Chinook salmon off central California in response to local changes in coastal upwelling intensity (Fiechter et al., Geophysical Research Letters, 2015; Fiechter et al., Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2016).
Over the next few of years, Jerome’s primary research focus will be to continue implementing new modeling tools that improve our knowledge of the complex interplay between physical, biogeochemical and ecosystem processes in the coastal ocean. Of special interest is a 3-year research project recently funded by the National Science Foundation that will shed light on the potential impacts and predictability of ocean acidification and hypoxia on California’s rich and diverse coastal ecosystem. He is also part of an interdisciplinary research team that was just formed to establish a long-term ecological research program for the Gulf of Alaska: a combined observational and modeling effort that will explore ecosystem productivity and resilience in the context of rapidly warming ocean conditions. Both of these projects contribute to Jerome’s overarching research interests of elucidating how physical and biological variability over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales affect our ability to make reliable predictions for the short- and long-term evolution of coastal marine ecosystem structure and function in light of changing climate conditions.