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Paleoenvironmental Proxy Development in Deep-Sea Coral

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Coral in the open ocean at night

Paleoenvironmental Proxy Development in Deep-Sea Coral

Research AreaCoral Paleoclimatology
Related PeopleDavid Mucciarone

We seek to better understand and develop geochemical signals in deep-sea coral skeletons for use as paleoenvironmental proxies.

Research directions
Deep sea corals are key members of hard substrate ecosystems throughout the ocean and also provide valuable records of paleoenvironmental variability. Their relative inaccessibility, however, makes them difficult to study and much about their biology, life cycle and evolution is still unknown. Elemental and isotopic analysis of the coral skeleton and tissue can yield information both on the coral and the environment in which it lived. The use of deep sea coral geochemistry as a proxy for environmental conditions is still being developed and studied, but much of the initial research shows promise. Elemental and isotopic distributions have the potential to record environmental conditions and have been shown to exhibit interannual to multi-decadal variability (Roark, 2005). Deep sea corals can also exhibit great longevity, with individuals living as long as 3000 years. (Roark, 2005)  This means that deep sea corals likely hold interannual to multi-decadal environmental records spanning back thousands of years. Depending on the species, deep-sea coral also have the ability to record environmental information both at the surface and at depth.