Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Discovery Lecture Series
presented by AltaSea and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Friday, August 4, 2017
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Arctic climate, as documented by algal rocks

By Branwen Williams, Claremont McKenna College

Human-caused climate change is warming Arctic temperatures and melting Arctic sea ice. These changes are occurring faster than those in other regions around our planet, in part because of important sea ice-temperature dynamics. Yet records of Arctic change are largely limited to the era of satellite observations because of the logistical difficulties in collecting data in the cold, remote high-latitude environment. Fortunately, encrusting coralline algae, a species of plant that forms a hard, rock-like skeleton encodes surrounding environmental conditions into its skeleton.

These algae grow for hundreds of years on the shallow sea floor in the Arctic providing invaluable records of climate change both during and preceding a human influence. Here, I talk about the process of collecting these algae from their extreme habitats, extracting the climate information recorded in their skeletons, and interpreting the information in the context of longer-term natural and human-caused climate change.

Professor Branwen Williams is an Oceanographer who uses the skeletons of marine organisms as tools to understand recent changes in the climate. She has worked throughout the world's oceans from the tropics to the poles, focusing primarily on extracting records of oceanic and atmospheric change from the skeletons of coralline algae and corals. Branwen is a Canadian transplant who now calls California home. She holds a Bachelorís degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Guelph, a Masterís degree in Biology from the University of Quebec, and a Ph.D. in Geology from the Ohio State University. She is current an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at the Claremont Colleges.

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