PORT TOWNSEND — Alex Gagnon, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Oceanography, will be the featured speaker at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s “The Future of Oceans” at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The lecture will be at the Chapel at Fort Worden State Park, 200 Battery Way.
Gagnon’s talk, “The Salish Sea’s Native Corals: A New Tool to Monitor Ocean Acidification,” 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 doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, as well as a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
He received a National Science Foundation CAREER award and is the director of the TraceLab at the University of Washington, an analytical facility for the measurement of trace elements in environmental materials.
Science in action
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.
Since its inception in 2014, the Future of Oceans lecture series has explored ocean research and emerging technologies.
The series is made possible by the support of the Darrow family.
For more information about the lecture series, visit ptmsc.org/programs/learn/lecture-series.