Alexis Fischer, Ph.D.
Alexis is a biological oceanographer and phytoplankton ecologist. They have been fascinated with the alien-ness of ocean life ever since they were a child – at one point, they even had a pet nudibranch (a.k.a., a sea slug). Alexis's research focuses on the strange, single-celled plants that produce much of the oxygen we breathe: phytoplankton.
Alexis joined NOAA Fisheries in 2021 as an Associate Scientist. Before that, they researched phytoplankton bloom dynamics in Cape Cod National Seashore, Monterey Bay, and the Arctic. She has a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. Alexis is an avid surfer and mountain biker and tries to get out into nature as much as possible.
Tiny organisms, giant impact
Phytoplankton are a diverse group of photosynthetic, microscopic organisms that form the base of marine food webs and regulate global climate. The growth of species is dependent on the advantages that their unique physiologies provide in each environment. These physiological traits include novel life cycles, toxin production, swimming behaviors, and nutritional strategies. But climate change may favor certain physiologies over others with consequences for ecosystem health and function.
Alexis uses laboratory experiments, field investigations, analytical models, and ocean robots to understand how phytoplankton respond to environmental change. Her mission is to predict cascading changes at the base of the food web due to environmental change and to help inform policy actions. To address this theme, their research focuses on two main topics:
1) Climate control of benthic input to planktonic phytoplankton communities
2) Effect of multiple stressors on phytoplankton dynamics in the California Current System