Geochemist Laura Robinson is out to discover how the Earth exited the last ice age to become the much warmer place it is today.
The answer, she says in a talk at TEDxBrussels, is probably in the ocean. “The ocean holds huge amounts of carbon — about 60 times more than is in the atmosphere. It also acts to transport heat across the equator and the ocean is full of nutrients and that controls primary productivity.”
These elements make the ocean a lead influencer of climate change. And thousands of feet below the ocean surface lies an archive of the ancient ocean — fossilized deep-sea corals whose chemistry reveals information about the Earth of the past.
“As [a coral] grows, it takes in chemicals from the ocean and the chemicals or the amount of a chemical depends on the temperature [of the ocean], depends on on the pH, depends on the nutrients,” Robinson says. “And if we can understand how these chemicals get into the skeleton, we can go back, collect skeletons and recreate how the ocean looked in the past.”
That is what Robinson and her colleagues do: scour the depths of the oceans almost no one sees, looking for these thousands-year-old fossils that may hold the secrets to Pleistocene deglaciation.
Watch her talk to learn more:
Insight from the TEDx office — why we liked this talk:
The speaker is a professional geochemist and academic with extensive experience in her field. She delivers a talk that is clear, informative and based in evidence from extended research. She makes a complex subject accessible and interesting, supported by striking visuals and straightforward information.