Short Name:
NSF-ANT09-44474

Historic Perspectives on Climate and Biogeography from Deep-Sea Corals in the Drake Passage

Polar oceans are the main sites of deep-water formation and are critical to the exchange of heat and carbon between the deep ocean and the atmosphere. This award "Historic perspectives on climate and biogeography from deep-sea corals in the Drake Passage" will address the following specific research questions: What was the radiocarbon content of the Southern Ocean during the last glacial maximum and during past rapid climate change events? and What are the major controls on the past and present distribution of cold-water corals within the Drake Passage and adjacent continental shelves? Testing these overall questions will allow the researchers to better understand how processes in the Southern Ocean are linked to climate change over millennia. This award is being funded by the Antarctic Earth Sciences Program of NSF's Office of Polar Programs, Antarctic Division. INTELLECTUAL MERIT: The skeletons of deep-sea corals are abundant in the Southern Ocean, and can be dated using U-series techniques making them a useful archive of oceanographic history. By pairing U-series and radiocarbon analyses the awardees can reconstruct the radiocarbon content of seawater in the past, allowing them to address the research questions raised above. Collection of living deep-sea corals along with environmental data will allow them to address the broader biogeography questions posed above as well. The awardees are uniquely qualified to answer these questions in their respective labs via cutting edge technologies, and they have shown promising results from a preliminary pilot cruise to the area in 2008. BROADER IMPACTS: Societal Relevance: The proposed paleoclimate research will make significant advances toward constraining the Southern Ocean's influence on global climate, specifically it should help set the bounds for the upper limits on how fast the ocean circulation might change in this region of the world, which is of high societal relevance in this era of changing climate. Education and Outreach (E/O): These activities are grouped into four categories: i) increasing student participation in polar research by fully integrating undergraduate through post-doctoral students into research programs; ii) promotion of K-12 teaching and learning programs by providing information via a cruise website and in-school talks, iii) making the data collected available to the wider research community via data archives such as Seamounts Online and the Seamount Biogeographic Network and iv) reaching a larger public audience through such venues as interviews in the popular media.

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