Sean Bryan


Research Summary

I am broadly interested in using the geochemistry of marine carbonates (primarily foraminifera and corals) to increase our understanding of past climatic and environmental variability beyond the instrumental record.  I am working on several ongoing projects here at WHOI.  The project that I have been spending most of my time on aims to use the concentrations of minor and trace elements in the skeletons of corals to reconstruct environmental changes in the Red Sea.  Over the past several years, Konrad Hughen’s lab has drilled cores from massive Porites corals all along the coastline of Saudi Arabia.  These coral cores are archives of climate and environmental information that can be reconstructed at high resolution (~biweekly sampling) for the past 200-300 years.  We are using the concentration of trace elements such as Ba, Al and Ti in high resolution samples to see if we can reconstruct the impact of monsoon-driven dust storms over the Red Sea.  We are also using the concentration of other trace elements in annual samples to examine the anthropogenic impact from the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the nutrient load and heavy metal concentrations in the Red Sea.

I am also working on a project, in collaboration with Bill Curry and Delia Oppo, investigating the role of ocean circulation changes in the climate and carbon cycle changes at the end of the last glacial period.  We plan to measure the trace elements Cd/Ca and Zn/Ca in benthic foraminifera, which are proxies for nutrient concentrations, from a sediment core collected on the Bermuda Rise.  This work is part of a larger effort to establish an Abyssal Circulation Type Section for the North Atlantic, in which the meridional overturning circulation of the North Atlantic during the late Quaternary will be examined using multiple proxies on the same sediment core.