“Ecologically speaking, kelp habitats up and down the Pacific coast are important as they form habitats for many different species,” says Hollarsmith. “These species are critical not only as food sources for other species, but for various industries including fisheries and even tourism.”
Hollarsmith’s initial research grew from her interest in how giant kelp responded to a 2014 marine heat wave that brought higher ocean temperatures to much of the northeast Pacific Ocean. Though anomalously high for higher latitudes, these temperatures were fairly normal for the Southern California Bight. Her investigation focused on why much of the northern kelp died while the southern kelp survived.
Her team examined giant kelp populations in both regions, as well as further south around Chile, by exposing the kelp to various temperatures and pH levels in a lab setting. They carried out their research at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab and at the Universidad de Los Lagos Instituto Marino (Puerto Montt, Chile).