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Emeritus Professor Malcolm McCulloch

Oceans Graduate School

"Follow your interests and intuitions as that is where the most rewarding opportunities will be found."

Professor Malcolm McCulloch held a senior Professorship in UWA’s Oceans Graduate School and was a founding member of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He has been responsible for establishing new state-of-the-art mass spectrometry and geochemistry facilities at UWA utilizing new innovative techniques applied to the environmental and ocean sciences.

His research interests focus mainly on the recent climate record using isotopic and trace element geochemical methods to determine how climate and anthropogenic processes have influenced both past and present marine environments. He is recognized both nationally and internationally for his role in developing and utilizing novel geochemical approaches to understand how climate and environmental changes are impacting both shallow water and deep-sea corals.

He is Fellow of The Royal Society (FRS), the Australian Academy of Science (FAA), the American Geophysical Union, the Geochemical Society, the Geological Society of Australia (GSA), and has been awarded the Ringwood (GSA) and Jaeger (AAS) medals.

Most important experiences while at UWA

When I returned to UWA in 2009 I was fortunate in being awarded a Premiers Fellowship and then an ARC Laureate Fellowship with the overarching aim of understanding how WA's unique marine environment has and will in the future respond to climate change. This has provided me with an unprecedented opportunity to study our diverse shallow and deep water coral reefs from the Kimberley, Ningaloo, Abrolhos and Rottnest Island reefs to the deepest reaches of the offshore Perth and Bremer Canyons.

Where did you think you would end up, when you began your career?

My research is focused on the physical sciences which I pursued with PhD studies at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. This experience was critical, as although I had a strong interest in cosmochemistry and associated solid earth sciences, I was always keen to work in marine environments; which I pursued as new opportunities arose in order to better understand the response of the oceans to climate change.

What are some of your most significant achievements?

Probably my most significant achievement was developing a new understanding of the 'mechanical limitations' of coral calcification to ocean acidification. By mechanical, I mean the physiological machinery by which corals modulate their internal calcifying environment. I was able to show that this is achieved by systematic 'upregulation' of both pH and dissolved inorganic carbon of the calcifying fluid relative to the surrounding seawater.

What has been the most interesting aspect of your career?

Undoubtedly returning to UWA has been the most interesting aspect of my career as it provided an opportunity to reset my goals and address a new set of challenges. In this endeavor, I have been well supported by UWA and external funding in building new types of capabilities of hopefully enduring state and national value.

Where are you planning to go from here? Are there new interests you are looking to get involved in?

My main interests are now shifting towards a better understanding of the larger scale drivers of climate change, particularly the role of the Southern Oceans.

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