The past three weeks in Slovenia have been spent diligently studying outcrops and cores of beautiful microbial reefs from the late Paleocene and early Eocene (~60-50 million years ago). These reefs tell an amazing story about the survival and resilience of corals and reef ecosystems through extreme changes in climate. Although I am wrapping up two projects from this research, I'm not done with these rocks yet! I have already learned a lot about how and why this ecosystem collapses, but I am also extremely interested in the how and why of recovery. For my final PhD chapter I will quantify the differences between the Paleocene and Eocene microbial reefs to find out how different the "recovered" reefs are from their predecessors, and whether this can tell us anything about how future reefs may recover from climate change.
I did get the opportunity to take a day off to see some depositional processes close up - by diving at the Fiesa Reef in Portoroz, on the Slovenian coast. This reef is different than the typical tropical platform many people picture when they hear the word reef. The water is not clear and blue but murky and grey, and this ecosystem is dominated by sponges, algae, gigantic mussels, but only one type of coral. We were super lucky and got to see elusive seahorses and pipefish as well!
All photos by Rowan Martindale