Alexander Gagnon

Alexander Gagnon

UW Faculty | Oceanography

Many of the tools used to reconstruct past climate are based on trace metal or isotope impurities locked within the CaCO3 skeletons of organisms like coral and plankton. This makes biomineralization, the process that controls how these signals are recorded, the lens through which we see the past ocean. A mechanistic understanding of biomineralization promises to uncover completely new ways to reconstruct past climate and to improve the interpretation of existing records. Furthermore, biomineralization is what ultimately controls the response of coral reefs and other calcifiers to global changes like ocean acidification. My lab uses a geochemical approach to uncover the fundamental mechanisms controlling biomineralization in marine organisms. In short, we turn specific physiological processes that occur during biomineralization, like ion transport or light induced growth, into measurable isotopic signals. Collectively, my research builds a mechanistic understanding of the relationships between marine calcification, changing ocean chemistry, and climate – transforming our knowledge of both the past and future oceans.