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Tier 1 grant to Dr Sylvain Rigaud – using microscopic sea creatures in corals to reconstruct past sea level change

07 Aug 2019

Sea level rise is one of the most critical effects of climate change in Singapore, and understanding past sea level variability is key to predicting the rate and magnitude at which it will happen in the future. The geological record is a powerful resource for looking at past sea level fluctuations, and with this Tier 1 proposal Dr Rigaud will develop a new method to do so. He will take an underwater, or bathymetric, approach based on microscopic shells and traces of marine microorganisms.

The key to this new method is a group of microscopic organisms called microendoliths, that live inside skeletons of corals. Dr Rigaud will use the fact that certain communities of microendoliths occur only in the upper few meters in the water column, making it possible to determine past sea level in coral skeletons of known age. Microendoliths are extremely abundant in modern and fossil (geologic) deposits, and also well-protected from decay by their coral host, making them ideal tools for sea-level reconstructions hundreds of thousands of years back with great accuracy, precision and continuity. It is a novel approach in Southeast Asia, and given the large marine diversity in the area there is great potential for a positive outcome.


By Sylvain Rigaud and Anna Lagerstroem