Katie McCabe

Katie McCabe

M.S. Student

Marine Biology

College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
218 O'Neill
PO Box 757220
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7220



University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
B.S. Environmental Sciences



Estuarine processes across a glacial gradient: understanding ecological function and structure in rocky intertidal communities in the Gulf of Alaska







My path to becoming a marine biologist has brought me to some of the most beautiful marine ecosystems. As an undergrad, a semester abroad allowed me to spend several months in the Galápagos Islands participating in marine ecology classes and scientific diving projects. Following graduation, I traveled back to South America to work in an intertidal ecology laboratory where we studied the effect of oceanographic processes on coastal communities in both open access and marine protected areas. Just before beginning graduate school in Alaska, I was in Panamá completing divemaster training in Coiba National Park, swimming with the whale sharks and manta rays.



  • Coastal marine ecosystems
  • Community ecology
  • GIS
  • Scientific diving



  • PADI Divemaster


Research Overview

Coastal ecosystems are an intermediary environment for a suite of hydrological, geological, and biological processes occurring between the land and sea. The complex interaction of terrestrial and pelagic subsidies (e.g., nutrients, sediments, larvae, etc.) can modulate the abundance of key species and ecological processes in nearshore environments. High-latitude coastal ecosystems, such as those found in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), are experiencing a dramatic change in environmental conditions due to climate warming. Alaskan glacier discharge rates have doubled in the past decade and have modulated downstream temperature, salinity, nutrient, and sediment stratification profiles in coastal embayments. In addition, freshwater discharge from glacial and non-glacial watersheds have resulted in a highly variable gradient of terrestrial organic matter and glacial sediments flowing from rivers downstream into coastal areas, which dramatically alters biogeochemical fluxes and estuarine subsidy rates. These subsidy rates are represented by the variation in material flux (i.e., amount of nutrients, sediments, larvae) entering an estuary, which can dramatically influence the sediment composition, turbidity, water chemistry, nutrient availability, and overall community structure of the downstream inter- and subtidal environments. My research focuses on understanding the biological response of intertidal community to such changes by quantifying growth, reproduction, and recruitment across glacially influenced estuaries.


Current Research Projects

  • Alaska EPSCoR "Fire and Ice"