Professor Malcolm McCulloch is a geochemistry expert specialising in coral reefs at The University of Western Australia’s Ocean Institute and School of Earth and Environment. His research addresses important contemporary issues such as the impacts of climate change, ocean acidification and direct human activities on coral reefs. He has developed innovative new indicators of how these processes have affected coral reefs over timescales ranging from years, decades to many centuries by utilising geochemical records preserved in the skeletons of long-lived corals. He has shown for example how boron isotopic compositions in corals reflect changes in seawater pH as well as the critical conditions under which corals precipitate their calcium carbonate skeleton. This rapidly growing area of research is providing insights into how the combined effects of CO2 driven acidification and ocean warming is effecting the sustainability of both deep as well as shallow-water coral-reef environments. He has also developed geochemical proxies to determine changes in ocean temperature, salinity and sediment/nutrient inputs into coral reefs, with the research having important implications for the management of coastal catchments, the resilience of corals generally to climate change, as well as the capacity of the oceans to serve as a major sink for CO2.
Professor McCulloch undertook his PhD at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), then spent much of his research career at the Australian National University before moving to the University of Western Australia in 2009. He has received a number of awards having been elected Fellow of The Royal Society (London), the Australian Academy of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the Geochemical Society, the Geological Society of Australia, was awarded the Jaeger Medal for career excellence in the earth sciences from the Australian Academy of Sciences, and an Honorary Doctorate from Curtin University. He held a WA Premier’s Research Fellowship at UWA from 2009 to 2013, and now holds a prestigious ARC Laureate Fellowship.