Elise Wilkes is an Oceanographer

Elise Wilkes is from Mesa, Arizona. She first became interested in the ocean through a class project in elementary school focusing on marine biology and ocean pollution. In high school and college she discovered she also greatly enjoyed her chemistry classes, so she went on to complete a degree in chemistry at Dartmouth College in 2012. She is now a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, completing research that combines both interests. Elise performs experiments in the laboratory and out on a ship in the ocean. She studies how microscopic plants called algae respond to changing seawater chemistry. Just like plants in your garden, algae require sunlight, water, and a chemical called carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to grow. Elise's research focuses on how the cells of algae change when they have more or less carbon dioxide in their environments. If we can understand how their cells change in response to changing seawater chemistry today, oceanographers can use “fossils” of algae buried in the seafloor to figure out how the ocean's chemistry was different in the past (hundreds of millions of years ago)!

Learn more in our personalized book My Scientific Name

My Scientific Name is a children's picture storybook developed in collaboration with female and minority scientists across many science fields. Each book is personalized using the letters of their name as a way of introducing them to many different STEM careers.