John H. Carlson Lecture: Deep Sea Corals and Their Climate Secrets

Laura F. Robinson (University of Bristol)
Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Simons IMAX Theatre, New England Aquarium

for the Ninth Annual John H. Carlson Lecture

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.


If you can't attend, view the livestream of this year's lecture here:




Laura Robinson is a geochemist, oceanographer and deep-sea explorer whose research focuses on understanding the climate history of the oceans. Her first degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge opened her eyes to the power of interdisciplinary research. After a PhD in Geochemistry at the University of Oxford she moved to the California Institute of Technology where she first learnt about the existence of corals which live far below the sea surface. Since then she has lead research teams at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Bristol using deep-submergence tools to map, image and collect deep-sea corals from across the global oceans. She and her team use geochemical analyses to extract information on how these coals survive at great depths, and to reconstruct information on the history of the oceans. This information is used to understand the interactions between the deep sea and rapid changes in global climate.

The John Carlson Lecture Series communicates exciting new results in climate science to the general public. Free of charge and open to the general public, the lecture is made possible by a generous gift from MIT alumnus John H. Carlson to the Lorenz Center in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT.

This event is sponsored by The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT, The Lorenz Center and The New England Aquarium.

For more information please contact Angela Ellis: