Campus Map

Monica Orellana

Research Scientist/Engineer - Principal & Principal Oceanographer





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


B.S. Biology, Concepcion (Chile), 1980

M.S. Biological Oceanography, University of Washington, 1985

Ph. D. Biological Oceanography, University of Washington, 1990


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Physical and optical characteristics of heavily melted 'rotten' Arctic sea ice

Frantz, C.M., B. Light, S.M. Farley, S. Carpenter, R. Lieblappen, Z. Courville, M.V. Orellana, and K. Junge, "Physical and optical characteristics of heavily melted 'rotten' Arctic sea ice," Cryosphere, 13, 775-793, doi:10.5194/tc-13-775-2019, 2019.

More Info

5 Mar 2019

Field investigations of the properties of heavily melted "rotten" Arctic sea ice were carried out on shorefast and drifting ice off the coast of Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, during the melt season. While no formal criteria exist to qualify when ice becomes rotten, the objective of this study was to sample melting ice at the point at which its structural and optical properties are sufficiently advanced beyond the peak of the summer season. Baseline data on the physical (temperature, salinity, density, microstructure) and optical (light scattering) properties of shorefast ice were recorded in May and June 2015. In July of both 2015 and 2017, small boats were used to access drifting rotten ice within ~32 km of Utqiagvik. Measurements showed that pore space increased as ice temperature increased (–8 to 0°C), ice salinity decreased (10 to 0 ppt), and bulk density decreased (0.9 to 0.6 g cm-3). Changes in pore space were characterized with thin-section microphotography and X-ray micro-computed tomography in the laboratory. These analyses yielded changes in average brine inclusion number density (which decreased from 32 to 0.01 mm-3), mean pore size (which increased from 80 μm to 3 mm), and total porosity (increased from 0% to > 45%) and structural anisotropy (variable, with values of generally less than 0.7). Additionally, light-scattering coefficients of the ice increased from approximately 0.06 to > 0.35 cm-1 as the ice melt progressed. Together, these findings indicate that the properties of Arctic sea ice at the end of melt season are significantly distinct from those of often-studied summertime ice. If such rotten ice were to become more prevalent in a warmer Arctic with longer melt seasons, this could have implications for the exchange of fluid and heat at the ocean surface.

Ocean acidification conditions increase resilience of marine diatoms

Valenzuela, J.J., A.L.G. de Lomana, A. Lee, E.V. Armbrust, M.V. Orellana, and N.S. Baliga, "Ocean acidification conditions increase resilience of marine diatoms," Nature Comm., 9, 2328, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-04742-3, 2018.

More Info

13 Jun 2018

The fate of diatoms in future acidified oceans could have dramatic implications on marine ecosystems, because they account for ~40% of marine primary production. Here, we quantify resilience of Thalassiosira pseudonana in mid-20th century (300 ppm CO2) and future (1000 ppm CO2) conditions that cause ocean acidification, using a stress test that probes its ability to recover from incrementally higher amount of low-dose ultraviolet A (UVA) and B (UVB) radiation and re-initiate growth in day–night cycles, limited by nitrogen. While all cultures eventually collapse, those growing at 300 ppm CO2 succumb sooner. The underlying mechanism for collapse appears to be a system failure resulting from "loss of relational resilience," that is, inability to adopt physiological states matched to N-availability and phase of the diurnal cycle. Importantly, under elevated CO2 conditions diatoms sustain relational resilience over a longer timeframe, demonstrating increased resilience to future acidified ocean conditions. This stress test framework can be extended to evaluate and predict how various climate change associated stressors may impact microbial community resilience.

Diatom acclimation to elevated CO2 via cAMP signalling and coordinated gene expression

Hennon, G.M.M., J. Ashworth, R.D. Groussman, C. Berthiaume, R.L. Morales, N.S. Baliga, M.V. Orellana, and E.V. Armbrust, "Diatom acclimation to elevated CO2 via cAMP signalling and coordinated gene expression," Nat. Clim. Change, 5, 761-765, doi:10.1038/nclimate2683, 2015.

More Info

15 Jun 2015

Diatoms are responsible for ~40% of marine primary productivity, fuelling the oceanic carbon cycle and contributing to natural carbon sequestration in the deep ocean. Diatoms rely on energetically expensive carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) to fix carbon efficiently at modern levels of CO2. How diatoms may respond over the short and long term to rising atmospheric CO2 remains an open question. Here we use nitrate-limited chemostats to show that the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana rapidly responds to increasing CO2 by differentially expressing gene clusters that regulate transcription and chromosome folding, and subsequently reduces transcription of photosynthesis and respiration gene clusters under steady-state elevated CO2. These results suggest that exposure to elevated CO2 first causes a shift in regulation, and then a metabolic rearrangement. Genes in one CO2-responsive cluster included CCM and photorespiration genes that share a putative cAMP-responsive cis-regulatory sequence, implying these genes are co-regulated in response to CO2, with cAMP as an intermediate messenger. We verified cAMP-induced downregulation of CCM gene δ-CA3 in nutrient-replete diatom cultures by inhibiting the hydrolysis of cAMP. These results indicate an important role for cAMP in downregulating CCM and photorespiration genes under elevated CO2 and provide insights into mechanisms of diatom acclimation in response to climate change.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center