Ongoing Research

Caribbean Coring Program

Before coming to Oberlin, my research focused on the development of Holocene coral reefs using various submersible coring systems - most recently, the SCARID corin g unit depicted to the right. This work continues at Oberlin in an effort to put the research program back on track that was derailed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and the closure of West Indies Laboratory in 1991.

In press paper: Gill et all, 2006


Caribbean History of A. palmata

The cumulative record made available by coring investigations all around the Caribbean has revealed two 800-1000 year intervals in which A. palmata declined severely throughout the region. Efforts continue to better delineate these events and to consider how they might be used to understand natural changes in community structure in the recent geologic past, and how this might relate to changes we have witnessed in recent years.


Coral Taphonomy

The community structure found in the geologic record is incomplete and biased. Nevertheless, the post-mortem changes that occur in corals can still tell us a lot about the processes that occurred in these environments if we look closely. Our efforts are following two paths. The first examines post-mortem encrustation and bioerosion of A. palmata and how it might be used to identify coral disease and bleaching in fossil communities. The other (described below) examines coral preservation in a spectacularly exposed Holocene reef in the western Dominican Republic.


Easter Island

Two expeditions to Rapa Nui in 1998 and 1998 examined the community structure around the island in anticipation of its nomination as the first World Heritage site. The area had hitherto been described as largely devoid of corals. Our studies showed this to be largely false, and revealed a reef system that breaks most of our rules about coral-reef development.

The Dominican Republic

Spectacular Holecene reefs are exposed in the Enriquillo Valley of the western Dominican Republic. The reefs formed in an embayment 10,000 years and were subsequently exposed when rapid sedimantation sealed off the bay entrance, and water evaporated. Today, the outcrops provide a unique opportunity to view largely in-place reefs that sit between 0 and 40 meters below sea-level.