Lecture: The Salish Sea’s Native Corals: A New Tool to Monitor Ocean Acidification
Location: Fort Worden Chapel
Date: October 20, 2019
Sunday, October 20
Alex Gagnon, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Chemical Oceanography University of Washington
The Fort Worden Chapel
(students, teachers FREE)
Alex Gagnon’s talk will focus on cold-water corals, including species native to the Pacific Northwest.
“Many coral reefs are in decline due to rising temperatures and ocean acidification," Gagnon said. "What few people know is that stony corals do not live just in the tropics. A few hardy species of stony corals grow right here in the Pacific Northwest.
"What is even more surprising is that these native corals record information about ocean chemistry as they grow and may hold the key to understanding how much humans have changed the pH of the Salish Sea,” he said.
Gagnon earned his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, as well as a B.S and B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. He received a National Science Foundation CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) award and is director of the TraceLab at the University of Washington, an analytical facility for the measurement of trace elements in environmental materials.
Gagnon uses tools from chemistry and geology to study how ocean acidification impacts corals and other marine organisms that make their skeletons out of calcium carbonate. Based on this mechanistic understanding of calcification, his lab can predict how changing ocean conditions will affect coral reefs and uncover the climate records locked within fossil marine shells.
Gagnon’s lab makes regular expeditions to a field site on Tetiaroa atoll in French Polynesia. The search for deep-sea corals has even taken him to the bottom of the ocean in the submersible vehicle Alvin.