Coral reefs are havens for marine biodiversity and underpin the economies of many coastal communities. But they are very sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to pollution, warming waters, overdevelopment, and overfishing. Reefs use a mineral called aragonite, a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, to make their skeletons.  When carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it forms carbonic acid—the same stuff that makes soda fizz--making the ocean more acidic and thus more difficult for many marine organisms to grow their shells and skeletons and threatening coral reefs globally.

Ken Caldeira and colleagues have looked at several aspects of coral reef decline. In one study they calculated ocean chemical conditions that would occur under different future scenarios and determined that if we continue on our current emissions path, by the end of the century there will be no areas of the ocean with the chemical properties that have supported coral reef growth in the past. In another study at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the researchers found that carbonate accumulation is 44% lower than 40 years ago and that the reef  dissolves  nearly three times more at night than in the 1970s. They suspect that sea cucumbers are a factor in this nightly activity as they feed.

 

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Forest image purchased from Shutterstock
March 8, 2022

Washington, DC—New powerhouse scientific talent with broad expertise ranging from marine and freshwater biogeochemistry to terrestrial ecosystem science to climate change adaptation and mitigation are burnishing the already sterling reputation of Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology for addressing the most urgent questions surrounding the sustainability of the Earth System.

Four new faculty are joining the department in 2022, and one Carnegie Department of Plant Biology staff member recently assumed a new joint position.

“Carnegie scientists were involved in establishing the discipline of ecology in the early 1900s at our former Desert Laboratory in

Nuclear power cooling towers image purchased from Shutterstock.
February 14, 2022

Washington, DC—Nuclear power generation can play a crucial role in helping the world reach a key goal of zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century, especially in countries with low wind resources, according to new work in Nature Energy from Lei Duan and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology.

Human activity is spewing carbon pollution into the atmosphere, affecting the global carbon cycle and causing warming, as well as altered precipitation patterns. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to minimize catastrophic climate impacts, it’s important that humanity work to keep the global mean temperature increase

Chris Field
January 26, 2022

Washington, DC— The founding Director of Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology and former Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II has been awarded the 2022 Japan Prize in the field of "Biological Production, Ecology/Environment."

The Japan Prize is awarded annually to scientists and engineers from around the world who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology, “furthering the cause of peace and prosperity” for all of humanity.

Each year, two different scientific disciplines are selected as the focus of the prizes. The 2022 honorees were selected from 346

Joseph Berry
January 26, 2022

Washington, DC— The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals, has elected Carnegie ecologist Joseph Berry to the newest class of AAAS Fellows, among the most distinct honors within the scientific community and part of a tradition that started in 1874.

The 2021 class of AAAS Fellows includes 564 scientists, engineers, and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines who are being recognized for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements. 

“AAAS is proud to bestow the honor of AAAS Fellow to some of today’s brightest

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Anna Michalak’s team combined sampling and satellite-based observations of Lake Erie with computer simulations and determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in the lake was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures. The bloom began in the western region in mid-July and covered an area of 230 square miles (600 km2). At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to over 1930 square miles (5000 km2). Its peak intensity was over 3 times greater than any other bloom on record. The scientists predicted that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience

Until now, computer models have been the primary tool for estimating photosynthetic productivity on a global scale. They are based on estimating a measure for plant energy called gross primary production (GPP), which is the rate at which plants capture and store a unit of chemical energy as biomass over a specific time. Joe Berry was part of a team that took an entirely new approach by using satellite technology to measure light that is emitted by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis as shown by the artwork.

The plant produces fluorescent light when sunlight excites the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll. Satellite instruments sense this fluorescence yielding a direct

Ana Bonaca is Staff Member at Carnegie Observatories. Her specialty is stellar dynamics and her research aims to uncover the structure and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially the dark matter halo that surrounds it. In her research, she uses space- and ground-based telescopes to measure the motions of stars, and constructs numerical experiments to discover how dark matter affected them.

She arrived in September 2021 from Harvard University where she held a prestigious Institute for Theory and Computation Fellowship. 

Bonaca studies how the uneven pull of our galaxy’s gravity affects objects called globular clusters—spheres made up of a million

Peter Gao's research interests include planetary atmospheres; exoplanet characterization; planet formation and evolution; atmosphere-surface-interior interactions; astrobiology; habitability; biosignatures; numerical modeling.

His arrival in September 2021 continued Carnegie's longstanding tradition excellence in exoplanet discovery and research, which is crucial as the field prepares for an onslaught of new data about exoplanetary atmospheres when the next generation of telescopes come online.

Gao has been a part of several exploratory teams that investigated sulfuric acid clouds on Venus, methane on Mars, and the atmospheric hazes of Pluto. He also

Anne Pommier's research is dedicated to understanding how terrestrial planets work, especially the role of silicate and metallic melts in planetary interiors, from the scale of volcanic magma reservoirs to core-scale and planetary-scale processes.

She joined Carnegie in July 2021 from U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she investigated the evolution and structure of planetary interiors, including our own Earth and its Moon, as well as Mars, Mercury, and the moon Ganymede.

Pommier’s experimental petrology and mineral physics work are an excellent addition to Carnegie’s longstanding leadership in lab-based mimicry of the

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation