Description: How have humans altered coastal ecosystems? Answering this question is challenging because humans have been interacting with coastal ecosystems for millennia, yet scientific monitoring of these environments is limited to a few decades at the most. In this talk, I will discuss how the skeletal remains of organisms can be used to establish baselines for ecosystems prior to anthropogenic environmental change. Comparing these baselines with the characteristics of present-day populations can reveal historical changes and inform our predictions for how coastal species will respond to projected environmental conditions. I will focus on examples from my research in the Gulf of Mexico that illustrate the ways that mollusks have responded to coastal eutrophication.
Bio: Paul Harnik is a paleobiologist and an assistant professor at Colgate University. He is interested in how organisms respond to environmental change, their capacities to adapt and move, as well as their vulnerabilities to extinction. He studies marine animals in oceans past and present to better understand the origins and maintenance of biodiversity on Earth and the impacts of human activities on coastal ecosystems. Paul received his B.A. in Geology from Oberlin College and his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Chicago. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, and on the faculty at Franklin & Marshall College, before moving to Colgate in 2020.