Research Stay at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Colombia University

30 October to 27 November 2019

My PhD project’s main goal is reconstruction of environmental variables (SST, SSS, pH) prior to the instrumental and satellite measurements era. This data makes it possible to observe interdecadal to interannual changes in ocean acidification and carbonate chemistry of southwest Pacific Ocean before the Industrial Revolution until present time. To do so, I use massive, tropical, reef corals from various locations within my research area, as they are natural archives of high resolution environmental data and can grow a few hundreds of years old. Some of the coral cores I am sampling are located at my home institution (ZMT, Bremen), and some are with the project partners, therefore I went on a month long research stay to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), Columbia University, in New York, USA.

The research stay at the LDEO was planned in order to collect samples for trace element and boron analyses from an especially long Porites sp. core from Tonga. My host was Prof. Braddock K. Linsley who is in charge of the Coral Lab within the Geoscience department at the LDEO, and one of the pioneers in the coral paleoclimate reconstructions, especially from the corals of the southwest Pacific. When sampling coral cores, it is extremely important to establish a good chronology so the samples correspond to actual time, and this can get very difficult with long cores and winding coral polyps growing in various directions. In these cases, the experience and knowledge of Prof. Linsley came particularly helpful. With this experience, I learned more about the corals of my study area and defining age models based on existing ones, which might come useful for the coral cores I am sampling at my home institution in Bremen as well.

During my stay at LDEO, I attended some of the weekly seminars and therefore had the opportunity to hear a talk about coral bleaching from the distinguished marine biologist, Prof. Terry Hughes. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to discuss the analysis options for boron isotopes (for reconstructing seawater pH) with the expert on marine carbonate chemistry reconstructions, Prof. Bärbel Hönisch. Working at LDEO was a really nice experience, as it is located outside of the city, surrounded by woods, and hosts only research facilities without teaching involved. I found this really helped me focus on my work without distractions. After work, and on weekends, it was great exploring the New York City and all it has to offer.

Overall, I am very happy with my research stay experience at the LDEO, and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to work with Prof. Linsley. I am also very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Henry C. Wu for funding my research stay through the Project OASIS. To new friends I made during my stay, I hope we’ll see each other again next year during another research stay or the next AGU!

– Sara Todorović – PhD Candidate