Location: Simons IMAX Theatre

Aquarium Lecture Series

Deep Sea Corals and Their Climate Secrets

Thursday, November 14

Laura F. Robinson, Ph.D., Professor of Geochemistry, University of Bristol

This is the ninth annual John H. Carlson Lecture presented by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lorenz Center and the New England Aquarium.

Deep in the oceans we find beautiful, abundant fields of corals. They live without light and yet they still rely on the sun for energy. As they grow, they take up chemicals from the seawater in which they live. The exact composition of these chemicals can reveal information on water temperature, circulation rates, and the amount of carbon or nutrients in the water in the past. This information is extremely valuable to climate scientists who are seeking to understand the important coupling between the atmosphere and the oceans. By using the chemistry of fossil coral skeletons from tens of thousands of years ago we have the potential to examine the way in which the oceans changed as the planet moved from a cold glacial state to the warm period that we have been living in for the last ten thousand years. In this talk, we will explore the underwater mountains that form the habitats for these corals and consider how and why corals can survive in such inhospitable locations, as well as looking at evidence on how they are being impacted by current human activities. Furthermore, we will head further back in time to explore the history of the oceans during rapid climate transitions.