Portrait of Holly Olivarez
PhD CandidateNSF Graduate Research Fellow
• Ocean biogeochemistry • Air-sea CO2 flux • Marine carbon cycle
Environmental Studies

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Ocean Biogeochemistry Research Group
Advisor: Nikki Lovenduski 


Climate change is more than parts per million and greenhouse gases... The people who are feeling the worst impacts of climate, their voices have got to be heard” - Robert D. Bullard, professor at Texas Southern University.  From the New York Times article: Black Environmentalists Talk About Climate and Anti-Racism.

Holly Olivarez is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Environmental Studies and Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at University of Colorado Boulder. Holly began her undergraduate studies at Central New Mexico Community College, participated in the New Mexico Alliance for Minority Participation program, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Earth and Planetary Sciences from University of New Mexico in 2019. Holly also participated in the Significant Opportunities for Atmospheric Research and Sciences (SOARS) program, a ten-week research internship for students from excluded groups at the University of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in 2018, 2019, and 2023. In 2019, Holly was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP) and currently studies the marine carbon cycle.


  • BS (Earth & Planetary Sciences): University of New Mexico, 2019
  • AS (Mathematics): Central New Mexico Community College, 2017


  • Dissertation Completion Fellowship Award, University of Colorado Boulder, 2023
  • DEI Summer Scholarship, INSTAAR, 2023
  • Women Who Make a Difference Award, Center for Inclusion and Social Change, University of Colorado Boulder, 2021
  • Graduate Service Award, Department of Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder, 2021
  • Graduate Research Fellowship Program, National Science Foundation, 2019
  • Graduate School Diversity Fellowship, University of Colorado Boulder, 2019
  • Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS), University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), 2019
  • Stuart A. Northrop Award, University of New Mexico, 2019
  • 2019 Featured Inspiring Graduate, University of New Mexico, 2019
  • Leadership and Involvement Award, University of New Mexico, 2019
  • Leonard Undergraduate Research Fellowship, University of New Mexico, 2019
  • University Research Scholarship Assistantship, University of New Mexico, 2019
  • J. P. Fitzsimmons Award, University of New Mexico, 2018
  • Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS), University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), 2018
  • Lucille H. Pipkin Senior Scholarship, New Mexico Geological Society, 2018
  • Outstanding Student Award, Association for Women Geoscientists, Laramide Chapter, 2018
  • Summer Community College Opportunities for Research Experience (SCCORE), Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP), 2017
  • Excellence in Education Scholarship, Trythall Family Foundation, 2017
  • John Boydstun Scholarship for Mathematics, Central New Mexico Community College Foundation, 2017
  • Suncat Scholar, Central New Mexico Community College, 2015


The ocean plays a key role in the climate system. While we know of physical, biological, geological, and chemical processes occurring in the ocean, a strong understanding of the variability, both spatial and temporal, as well as underlying mechanisms in the ocean, are not well known.

I use observational records and ensembles of Earth system models (mathematical representations of the coupled physical and biogeochemical climate system) to investigate interannual to multi-decadal changes in ocean biogeochemistry in the context of internal variability over the recent past and coming century. In this work, I quantify and understand the drivers of these changes. This work is key to our interpretation of the observational record and our future projections of the global carbon cycle, both of which are reported in documents such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

Selected publications

Olivarez, H. C., Lovenduski, N. S., Eddebbar, Y., Fay, A. R., McKinley, G. A., Levy, M., Long, M. C., 2023: How does the Pinatubo eruption influence our understanding of long-term changes in ocean biogeochemistry? Authorea. DOI: 10.22541%2Fessoar.168987148.86170193%2Fv1

Fay, A. R., McKinley, G. A., Lovenduski, N. S., Eddebbar, Y., Levy, M. N., Long, M. C., Olivarez, H. C., Rustagi, R. R., 2023: Immediate and long-lasting impacts of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption on ocean oxygen and carbon inventories. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 37(2): e2022GB007513. DOI: 10.1029/2022GB007513

Olivarez, H. C., Lovenduski, N. S., Brady, R. X., Fay, A. R., Gehlen, M., Gregor, L., Landschützer, P., McKinley, G. A., McKinnon, K. A., Munro, D. R., 2022: Alternate histories: Synthetic large ensembles of sea-air CO2 flux. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 36(6): e2021GB007174. DOI: 10.1029/2021GB007174

Coupe, J., Stevenson, S., Lovenduski, N., Rohr, T., Harrison, C. S., Robock, A., Olivarez H., Bardeen, C. G., Toon, O. B. 2021: Nuclear Niño response observed in simulations of nuclear war simulations. Nature Communications Earth and Environment, 2(1): 18. DOI: 10.1038/s43247-020-00088-1

Lovenduski, N., Harrison, C., Olivarez, H., Bardeen, C. G., Toon, O. B., Coupe, J., Robock, A., Rohr, T., Stevenson, S. 2020: The potential impact of nuclear conflict on ocean acidification. Geophysical Research Letters, 47(3): e2019GL086246. DOI: 10.1029/2019GL086246


I am very active in outreach that includes mentoring, organizing, and leadership. I use my position to not only present science to non-specialists but also to present social justice issues to students, staff, professors and administrators at CU Boulder.

From 2020 to present, I serve(d) on four campus equity and inclusion committees and consult with upper-level administrators regularly. From 2019 to 2021, I sat on 14 panels of graduate students speaking to undergraduate STEM students from excluded groups. I’ve given seven virtual presentations on “The Connection between Climate Change and COVID-19” and in 2022 I moderated two panels organized by UCAR Science Education called “Sound the Solutions: Centering Justice in Climate Change Action.”

Below is an example of a public online discussion in coordination with science educators at the National/University Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR/UCAR):

Ask NCAR: Climate Change and Our Ocean (30 min)


Below is one of the climate justice panels I moderated at the invitation of UCAR SciEd:

Sound the Solutions: Centering Justice in Climate Change Action (1 hr)


I am also interested in talking about climate change. For example, I teamed up with an illustrator, Cal Brackin from On Board Innovations for an online discussion about art and climate communication:

Creating the Intersection of the Arts and Climate Change Communication (1.25 hrs)