Vanesa Magar, one of the PLOS Responding to Climate Change Channel Editors, is an associate professor in the Department of Physical Oceanography at the Centre of Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada (CICESE) Baja California, Mexico. She is general secretary of the Mexican Geophysical Union (UGM) and has been elected as vice-president for the period 2018-2019. Within CICESE she co-leads (together with Dr. Markus Gross) the geophysical fluid dynamics and environmental modelling laboratory (GEMlab), founded in January 2014. The lab’s research interests focus on coastal hydrodynamics and morphodynamics; oceanographic and atmospheric dynamics; renewable energy resource characterization and environmental impacts; and marine spatial planning. You can find her on twitter on @MagarVanesa #climatechange
Tell us about yourself and current research, and about how you came to be interested in this field.
I started working on climate change in 2006, during my Research Councils UK (RCUK) Academic Fellowship (2005-2010) at the University of Plymouth, UK. One of the professors in the Coastal Engineering Research Group I belonged to invited me to collaborate on a coastal morphodynamics project, originally supported by the Great Yarmouth Port Company Ltd, who were interested in the evolution of the Port’s navigational channels. The research involved assessing the future changes of the channels and the reliability of such projections, based on bathymetric records extending back to 1848. For a few years, I was very interested in different data-driven and statistical techniques applied to coastal morphodynamics. During this period, we also had a coastal protection project in collaboration with HR Wallingford, and I prepared and taught for three consecutive years a new Masters course on “coastal flooding and risk” to coastal engineering students, which addressed to issue of the impact of climate change on coastal hazards. Since joining the Physical Oceanography department at CICESE in January 2014, I have continued studying the potential impact of climate change on the coast. For example, one of our former postgraduate students analysed coastal protection services provided by fringing reefs under hurricane conditions, using the open source code XBEACH, developed by Deltares, IHE-UNESCO, Delft University of Technology and the University of Miami.
In 2008, I also started working on marine renewable energy, as part of the newly founded partnership for marine renewable energy PRIMARE. In the beginning, we focused on wave energy characterisation for Wave Hub, and for the Channel Islands. Then, I was fortunate enough to lead (for few months! As I moved to Mexico while the project was ongoing) the INTERREG V project OFELIA, on hydro-environmental impacts of offshore wind farm foundations. More recently, however, the collaborations we have started with social scientists and spatial planners have made us incorporate social science and spatial planning techniques into our research methodologies. So, although we maintain a very technical approach for some of our work (see gem.cicese.mx for more details), we also use GIS and preference ranking organisation methods, for example, for multi-criteria analyses. Our current research in renewable energy focuses mostly on tidal energy and wind energy (both on land and offshore), but this is by no means a limitation as we can transfer some of our tools to any form of energy.
Why did you decide to join the editorial team at the PLOS Responding to Climate Change Channel?
When I was invited to join the Channel’s editorial team, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to interact more with other editors I had worked with in PLOS through editor-author relationships, but through the RTCC Channel, we would be able to get to know each other better and form stronger partnerships. It is, as well, an excellent opportunity to highlight the research published by PLOS and other sources that may show evidence of climate change impacts on the Earth’s ecosystems, on Human Health or Infrastructure, or on access to drinking water and, in turn, help influence climate change policies. There are also new ideas or methods in the Channel, which enrich the knowledge landscape on climate change, not only in the form of peer-reviewed papers, but also in the form of blogs, computational toolkits, dataset archives or monitoring protocols to name but a few. Such variety of source materials and source styles makes the Channel livelier, and I hope this also helps engage the contributors and readers with the Channel’s selected works.
Where do you see your field of research heading in the next few years? What are the next big questions the field will address?
Climate change is such an extensive topic that, from my perspective, there are several significant concerns that climate change scientists in different fields will need to address. One of them would relate to marine or lacustrine ecosystems, and in particular, one question may be: what is the impact of ocean warming and ocean acidification on aquatic ecosystems? And how does this impact change locally under different climate change scenarios and for different species or different trophic levels? Another question relates to terrestrial ecosystems. For example, how will changes in rainfall patterns, flood-drought cycles and wildfire risks affect the distribution of species? Another example may be agricultural land shifts induced by climate change as farming of current crops becomes unsustainable due to desertification and farming of new crops emerges. From a geoscientific perspective, the disturbances caused by a warming climate may not only affect the frequency and intensity of extreme events but also modify the natural variability of the mesoscale phenomena that characterise the Earth’s ocean and atmosphere. For example, the position or size of oceanic and atmospheric gyres and jets, or the paths of the oceanic currents, such as the California Current or the Gulf Stream flow, could be modified by the temperature increases, both at local and global scales.
What is your favorite piece on the Channel to date? What do you think is a must-read on the Channel?
The editor’s pick for January 2018, on redispatch costs of electricity generated by German wind farms, by Wohland et al. In this paper, natural annual variability is shown to reduce redispatch costs by hundreds of millions of euros. Climate change goes hand-in-hand with natural variability. It is essential to separate them and understand their associated impacts on renewable energy generation, especially when observations show such dramatic differences in grid management costs depending on the annual variations of wind energy resources.
What is the importance of Open Access and Open Data in your field?
It is essential. Without Open Access and Open Data, it would be impossible to study decadal time series or maps and to assess future climate change scenarios. For climate change studies, data sources should be quality controlled and stored in Open Access repositories. The geoscientific data should include, for example, bathymetric and topographic surveys; oceanographic and meteorological data from remote-sensing and in-situ instrumentation; laboratory data; and global, regional and local model outputs. However, ecological, social and economic information also needs to be stored. Without access to such data, it will be challenging to develop and implement informed climate change mitigation programs.
Check out the PLOS Responding to Climate Change Channel: https://channels.plos.org/rtcc