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What was your previous position and where?Prior to coming to LSU, I was at the U.S. Geological Survey, Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. I was a geologist and started the coral paleoclimate laboratory there. I was awarded a STAR award for my efforts in starting the lab.
What brought you to LSU?I was hired under the Atlantic Studies Multidisciplinary Initiative in August 2009 as a paleoclimatologist. I joined the Department of Geography & Anthropology and started the Paleoclimate and Atlantic Studies (PAST) Laboratory. I was attracted to LSU by the opportunity to conduct research with colleagues outside my specialty field to address questions related to climate change and human-earth interactions, particular in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions.
What are your research interests?My research interests are centered on understanding climate change of the recent past so that we can understand how the Earth may change in the future. Unfortunately, the instrumental records are sparse in much of the world's oceans and do not exist in many locations before 1950. I am particularly interested in the tropical regions where coral reefs flourish. I use natural archives with growth increments within their structure to decipher past environmental change. The main archive I use are large boulder shape coral colonies with living coral on top and dead skeleton below. These coral skeletons have annual layers, similar to rings in a tree. By counting the layers in the coral skeleton, I can tell what year that skeleton was formed. Then, I take many samples from the skeleton for each band and measure its chemical properties. From these measurements, I can calculate the temperature of the water when the skeleton was formed. Using this method, I have reconstructed water temperatures back to 1649 in the southwest Pacific and in the Gulf of Mexico back to 1734.
What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?I want to build a large research group at LSU with students and researchers from many disciplines using the tools of chemical analysis to address questions about the past. These labs are expensive, but we can do innovative and exciting work addressing questions from anthropology, forensics, geology, archaeology, oceanography, history, ecology, biology and more.
What do you enjoy most about LSU?I love the students and their excitement to learn. The students are very respectful and love being at LSU. They ask insightful questions that spur conversations and debates on current topics in the news or from class. Sometimes, I spend the whole day just talking with students in my office, lab or after class.
What are your major accomplishments?My work in the southwest Pacific was published in the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change in 2012.