With our lab’s focus on the physiological response of marine organisms to environmental change we have considerable interest in how changes in ocean chemistry impacts biology. Our efforts on this front can be categorized into 1) the organismal response to acute elevated carbon dioxide exposure and 2) the population level impact, which will be strongly influenced by local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity. While our research often integrates the impact at all levels, research highlights are outlined below based on these two biological levels. In addition to the research carried out by graduate students, undergraduate students, and scientists in Roberts Lab, research projects completed as part of UW courses are also highlighted.

Collaborations: Over the years we have worked with several groups, the primary collaboration with the lab of Dr. Carolyn Friedman. We have also collaborated with Dr. Emily Carrington, Dr. Gary Dickinson, Dr. Mike Brett, and Dr. Charlotte Corporeau.

Organismal Response to Ocean Acidification

Our work began in 2009 with support from the NOAA Saltonstall Kennedy Program. This award entitled, Threats to Bivalve Aquaculture and Fisheries: The Influence of Emerging Diseases and Environmental Change (PI Dr. Roberts) focused on ocean acidification and the interaction between oysters and a bacterial pathogen (Vibrio tubiashii).

Work continued with an award to Dr. Friedman from Washington SeaGrant, Effects of Ocean Acidification on Declining Puget Sound Shellfish.

During this period, Emma Timmins-Schiffman (graduate student) successfully raised over $5000 to fund her acidification research in a crowdfunding effort.

Below is a list of products from our efforts.

Peer-Reviewed Papers

Timmins-Schiffman E, Coffey W, Hua W, Nunn B, Dickinson G, Roberts S. (in revision) From shell deposition to protein expression: An integrative assessment of ocean acidification impacts on a marine invertebrate.

Timmins-Schiffman E, O’Donnell M, Friedman C, and Roberts S. (2012) Elevated pCO2 causes developmental delay in early larval Pacific oysters, Crassostrea gigas. Marine Biology. doi:10.1007/s00227-012-2055-x (preprint)


David Metzger (2012) Characterizing the effects of ocean acidification in larval and juvenile Manila clam, Ruditapes philippinarum, using a transcriptomic approach


David C. Metzger, Paul McElhany, Shallin Busch, Carolyn S. Friedman, Steven B. Roberts (preprint) Underlying impact of ocean acidification on Manila clam (Ruditapes philippinarum) larvae revealed through RNA-Seq analysis.

David C. Metzger, Carolyn S. Friedman, Emma B. Timmins-Schiffman and Steven B. Roberts (preprint) Thermal tolerance and gene expression characterization in Manila clams (Ruditapes philippinarum) exposed to elevated carbon dioxide.

Thompson R and Roberts SB (preprint) Influence of carbon dioxide-induced acidification and mechanical stress on gene expression and microbial community composition in oysters.


Ocean Acidification Affects the Oyster Proteome Timmins-Schiffman

Vibrio tubiashii Genomics Data Dorfmeier

2011 Hatchery Sample Database

2010 Environmental Data

2010 Hatchery Sample Database

2010 Oyster Set Data


The Effects of Ocean Acidification on Multiple Life History Stages of the Pacific Oyster, Crassostrea gigas: Implications for Physiological Trade-offs. Timmins-Schiffman (February 2014) via Prezi, Dissertation Defense Draft

Epigenetic and Environmental Influences on the Shellfish Immune Response. Roberts (June 2013) Plenary at International Conference of Fish and Shellfish Immunology – Vigo, Spain.

Using Proteomics to Understand Crassostrea gigas’s Response to Multiple Stressors. Timmins-Schiffman (February 2013) NSA Presentation

Ocean Acidification. Timmins-Shiffman (November 2012) via Prezi, a FISH441 Lecture

In the Media

Emma Timmins-Schiffman and Elene Dorfmeier on KUOW’s Morning Edition

Ocean researchers dive deeper into Puget Sound’s acidification (2012) Seattle Times – featuring Timmins-Schiffman

Featured video: Oyster standoff with ocean acidification UW 360

Student Final Projects: FISH441 Integrative Physiology

(coming soon)

Other publications

Pacific oysters serving as ocean acidification sentinels (March 2013) Fish Farming News

Compilation of all Progress Reports (2012) submission to NOAA

[Video] Emma Timmins-Schiffman’s Thesis Presentation at GSS (2012)

Ocean Acidification and Adaptive Potential

More recently our research efforts have turned to local adaptation and how shellfish populations with respond to changes in ocean chemistry. Central to this phenomenon is our fundamental research on the role of epigenetics on phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation (Roberts and Gavery 2012). Early on this work concentrated on molecular mechanisms (Gavery and Roberts 2010). Currently we are addressing the potential for local adaption in the Olympia oyster. This work focus on a suite of environmental conditions include ocean chemistry and is funded by an award from the NOAA Aquaculture Program entitled, Alleviating Regulatory Impediments to Native Shellfish Aquaculture.

In 2014 as part of an award from Washington Sea Grant to Dr. Joth Davis entitled, Crossbreeding and Selection for Resistance to Ocean Acidification in Pacific Oysters we will be examining the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for differences in Pacific oyster performance in the face of ocean acidification.

More information on our activities can be found on the blog: Ocean Acidification: Research notes from SAFS.

Ocean Acidification Research Highlights