• Kristina Barclay

Scientist Spotlight: Dr. Ana Franco, Postdoctoral Fellow, UBC

Dr. Ana Franco is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia with Professor Phil Tortell in the MEOPAR project OxyNet: A network to examine ocean deoxygenation trends and impacts. She is also an expert in ocean acidification, having worked on the topic since her undergraduate degree. Dr. Franco shares with us her expertise, research, and past experiences that led her to become an expert in ocean acidification and oceanography.

A woman with brown hair and glasses smiles at the camera
Dr. Ana Franco

What is your background?

At the end of my bachelor studies in oceanography, almost by chance, I had the opportunity to participate as an undergrad in an ocean acidification (OA) cruise in the Pacific coast of Canada-US-Mexico. I had never participated in a cruise or had heard about OA before (this was 2007). I’m not even sure that I understood English very well at the time, but there I go to spend 30+ days immersed in ocean acidification science of the highest quality. Intimidating! The science from that cruise was a turning point for OA research (Feely et al., 2008), but the main result, from my own personal perspective, is that I haven’t stopped researching ocean acidification since then.

In the years following the cruise I went on to work with inorganic carbon data from the tropical Pacific off Mexico for my bachelor and master’s thesis at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, in Ensenada, Mexico. During that time, I collected and analysed dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity samples from one of the most intense oxygen minimum and carbon maximum zones. The objective was to establish a baseline for future ocean acidification research and sea-air carbon fluxes in this particularly undersampled region.

During my PhD I changed tools and went on to tackle ocean acidification with numerical model simulations at the Environmental Physics group at ETHZ, Switzerland. During that time, I studied the mechanisms driving ocean acidification on the long term and interannual time scales on another prominent oxygen minimum region: the Humboldt Current System, off Peru and Chile. No fieldwork here, but the experience gained from those days at sea and in the lab did allow me to easily imagine the ocean moving in my computer.

a woman standing on a ship deck actively spinning a hula hoop around her waist
Ana in 2007 on her first ocean acidification cruise, where she also learned to hula hoop

What is your interest in OA?

I am interested in investigating the marine carbon cycle using observations and numerical models. I am particularly interested in researching anthropogenic stressors such as ocean acidification and deoxygenation, but also in investigating the natural variability of the carbon cycle.

Can you tell us about your past or current contributions to OA research?

I still feel the ripples of that 2007 OA cruise, where I met who is currently one of my main collaborators, Dr. Debby Ianson. Debby presented me with the opportunity to work with carbon data from the Line P program, to look at long term ocean acidification and the impact on the marine carbon cycle. Together with collaborators from UVic, IOS and UBC, we have put together a work that is currently in review and where we discuss the anthropogenic and climatic contributions to carbon system trends in the Northeast Pacific (Line P region).

What do you see as the most pressing OA issue?

Ocean acidification does not act in isolation and other stressors need to be considered when investigating the anthropogenic impacts to the ecosystem. Attention is now also focused on understanding the driving mechanisms and implications of compound events (e.g., deoxygenation + ocean acidification) and extreme events (e.g., marine heatwaves).

Benchtop DIC and TA analysers used for OA research
The equipment Ana used to measure ocean acidification variables (DIC and TA) during her bachelor and masters degrees

What excites you most about the current or future of OA research in Canada?

Canada sustains the Line P carbon time series, one of the longest (~ 30 years) and better spatially resolved (5 time series stations in the northeast Pacific) ocean acidification time series of the world. We can observe ocean acidification with this time series and the processes enhancing or dampening the OA trend at different time scales. The high quality of this time series allows us to differentiate the anthropogenic impact from the natural oscillations with a high level of certainty. This time series is a treasure and a privilege to work with.

To learn more about Ana’s research, please visit her LinkedIn profile.


Feely, Richard A., Christopher L. Sabine, J. Martin Hernandez-Ayon, Debby Ianson, Burke Hales. 2008 Evidence for Upwelling of Corrosive "Acidified" Water onto the Continental Shelf. SCIENCE1 320:1490-1492.