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Nancy Prouty

Research Oceanographer

Contact info

Phone: (831) 460-7526
Fax: (831) 427-4748
Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


B.Sc. 1993 Whitman College
M.S. 1997 University of New Hampshire
Ph.D. 2004 Stanford University

Photo of Nancy underwater in scuba gear, amidst coral reef.

Research interests

My research focuses on enhancing our understanding of climate variability on human-relevant timescales and impact of human activities on our climate. The evaluation of such impact requires that we place recent climate change in the context of natural climate variability. “Natural recorders” (e.g., ice cores, tree rings, and coral records) of climate variability allow us to reconstruct proxy records of past climate (paleoclimate) changes beyond the current instrumental recordings and recent historical periods that are often plagued by spatial and temporal limitations and measurement biases. The best paleoclimate records are those that are continuous and have high temporal resolution (i.e., subseasonal to decadal resolution) such as those available from corals drilled from reefs in the tropical oceans as well as the deep sea.

Photo of Nancy in scuba gear, preparing for a dive off the boat.

Current area of research

My research at the USGS involves the collection and analysis of an array of coral cores from the USGS Ridge-to-Reef study areas in Hawaii. This research is aimed at investigating the link between sedimentation and coral reef ecosystem health due to chronic exposure to sedimentation as well as to study the effects of infrequent, large scale events and perturbations due to modification of the coastline. My research complements and builds upon the hydrographic and sediment studies conducted by the U.S.G.S. Pacific Coral Reef Program by placing current environmental conditions into a historical context. In doing so, this will provide valuable information on the rates of change occurring historically and up to present-day conditions.

As part of the USGS Diversity, Systematics, and Connectivity of Vulnerable Reef Ecosystems team, my research focuses on the paleo-ecology of deep-sea corals (DSC) including quantification of growth rates and life-spans. Continued research on the ecology and biology of DSC will be important to protection and conservation efforts of state and federal management authorities. Geochemical records derived from the skeletons of DSC offer continuous, high-resolution archives that are vital for assessing the vulnerability of these organisms to natural and anthropogenic disturbances and the time scales of their recovery. These records can also extend our observations of ocean dynamics and climate to periods well before the onset of instrumental records. Given that some species of DSC grow in tree like fashion depositing growth rings, decadally resolved and perhaps even sub-decadally resolved records are possible with high resolution sampling techniques such as laser ablation.

Recent papers & presentations

Some of these reports are available here in PDF format. You will need an application like Adobe Reader to view them. You may download a free copy of Reader from Adobe's web site; or contact me.

Prouty N.G., Roark, E.B., Buster, N.A., and Ross, S.W. Growth-rate and Age Distribution of Deep-Sea Black Corals in the Gulf of Mexico (2011) Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 423:101-115

Prouty, N.G., Field, M.E., Stock, J.D., Jupiter, S.D., and McCulloch, M.T. (2010) Coral Ba/Ca records of sediment input to the fringing reef of the south shore of Moloka`i, Hawai`i, over the last several decades. Marine Pollution Bulletin, v. 60, i. 10, pp. 1822-35, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2010.05.024

Prouty, N.G., E.B. Roark, C. Holmes, N. Buster, and S. Ross. (2010) Sub-decadal records of surface water properties recorded in deep-sea corals spanning the last millennium from the Gulf of Mexico.  U.S.G.S. Climate Change Science Workshop March 2010 (poster)

Prouty, N.G., E.B. Roark, and S.W. Ross. (2010) Geochemical Evaluation of Annual Growth Rings in Deep-sea Antipatharian Coral. American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences Meeting March 2010 (poster)

Prouty, N.G., Field, M.E., Jupiter, S.D., and McCulloch, M.T. (2009) Coral Proxy Record for Decadal Scale Reduction in Base flow from Moloka`i, Hawai`i. Geochemistry, Geophysics, and Geosystems, 10(12) Q12018, doi:10.1029/2009GC002714

Carilli, J., Prouty, N.G., Hughen, K.A., and Norris, R.D. (2009) Century-scale records of land-based activities recorded in Mesoamerican coral cores. Mar. Poll. Bull., v. 58 i. 12 pp. 1835–1842. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.07.024

Prouty, N.G. E.B. Roark, and S.W. Ross. (2009) Geochemical Signal Reproducibility in Sub-samples of Black Corals. American Geophysical Union Meeting December 2009 (poster)

2008 and older
N.G. Prouty, K. Hughen, and J. Carilli. (2008) Geochemical signature of land-based activities in Caribbean coral surface samples. Coral Reefs, v. 27 n.4 pp. 727-742, doi:10.1007/s00338-008-0413-4

Grumet, N.G., M.E. Wickett, P.B. Duffy, K. Caldeira, and R.B. Dunbar. (2005) Intrabasin comparison of surface radiocarbon levels in the Indian Ocean between coral records and three-dimension global ocean models. Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 19, GB2010, doi:10.1029/2004GB002289

Grumet1, N.S. N.J. Abram, J.W. Beck, R.B. Dunbar, M.K. Gagan, T.P. Guilderson, W.S. Hantoro, and B.W. Suwargadi. (2004)  Coral radiocarbon records of Indian Ocean water mass mixing and wind-induced upwelling along the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, J. Geophys.Res.-Oceans, 109, C05003

Grumet, N.S., T.P. Guilderson, and R.B. Dunbar. (2002) Coral radiocarbon as a tracer for meridional transport in the Indian Ocean. J. Marine Res. 60, 725-742

Grumet, N.S., T.P. Guilderson and R.B. Dunbar. (2002) Pre-bomb radiocarbon variability inferred from a Kenyan coral record. Radiocarbon, 44-2

1Editor's Choice: Biogeosciences

Curriculum Vitae

Available as PDF document (135 K).

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