Hunter Hughes is Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. His thesis revolves around how coral skeletal geochemistry is used to reconstruct past ocean conditions. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Tree Rings of the Ocean’, corals produce seasonal growth bands in their skeletons. If paleo-oceanographers measure particular geochemical proxies in those growth bands, such as skeletal strontium-to-calcium ratios (Sr/Ca), they can reconstruct past ocean temperatures and better inform models that seek to predict future changes in climate. Specifically, Hunter looks at variability in seawater Sr/Ca ratios to see how small changes in local seawater chemistry can make large impacts on coral Sr/Ca-based temperature reconstructions.
Prior to his master’s program, Hunter took what is commonly called a ‘non-traditional’ path to the sciences. After receiving a B.A. from Emerson College in English and Journalism, Hunter went on to work in the sales industry for two years. In the Spring of 2014, he returned to school to complete a variety of math and science courses with the goal of being admitted into a master’s program for paleoclimatology. He spent a year working as a research technician on a remote marine field station before gaining acceptance into the Marine-Estuarine Environmental Program through the University of Maryland. He has presented this research at multiple conferences and looks forward to continuing his studies of paleoclimatology by obtaining a doctorate in Oceanography. In Summer 2020, Hunter will be working with Dr. Tali Mass in Haifa, Israel. There he hopes to measure seawater Sr/Ca ratios in the Red Sea to better inform coral paleoclimate studies about the potential mechanisms and drivers for seawater Sr/Ca variability. Outside of his research, Hunter is passionate about outreach, science communication, and creative outlets for both individual and shared expression.
- B.A. Writing, Literature, and Publishing / Journalism, 2011 Emerson College