Casey Engstrom

Casey joined Dr. Lynne Quarmby’s lab in 2018 as a MSc student, and transferred to a PhD program after two years. Hailing from Vermont, USA, he received his BA in 2013 from Middlebury College with a concentration in biology and minor in physics. Between undergrad and grad school he spent the intervening years working various jobs including national park ranger, seabird counter, cook, and backcountry hut caretaker.

The Quarmby lab studies snow algae, which form vast pink-coloured blooms in summer snowfields throughout polar and alpine regions. These eye-catching blooms have received attention in recent years for their potential role in climate change: the red-pigmented algae darken the snow, causing it to melt faster. Casey’s research focuses on understanding how these blooms develop. What conditions lead to bloom development? Does microbiome species composition change throughout the summer? Does snow algae cell morphology change in response to environmental conditions? To answer these questions he splits his time between field work (sample collection), lab (microscopy, cultivation, sequencing), and computer (remote sensing, bioinformatics).

Outside of the lab, Casey can be seen trail running on SFU’s Burnaby mountain campus, rock climbing in Squamish, or hiking out of the local mountains with a backpack full of algae. He is also an avid alpine croquet player and saxophonist.