Green Talent Dr Intan: Nature’s Archive offers insight to climate change

Having been selected by a high-ranking jury of experts as one of the 25 'green' visionaries from over 430 applicants from 80 countries, Dr Intan Suci Nurhati is SMART's first Green Talents 2013 award winner.

This award, under the patronage of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), is given to high potentials in sustainable development research. As part of the award, the climate scientist in CENSAM spent two weeks visiting leading research institutions in Germany. She will be invited to return to Germany in 2014 for a three-month research stay at the research institution of her choice.

Dr Intan explains her work in Indonesian to the journalist of the Indonesian news section of DW in Berlin:

Here's a translated excerpt of the interview which explains her contribution to the 'greening' of our world:

DW: Intan, firstly congratulations. Can you explain more about your current research?

Intan Suci Nurhati: Thank you. I am here as a climate and ocean scientist. I received this award from the German government for my research in understanding the role of global warming in the oceanography and environments over the Indonesian maritime region. Here my approach is unique such that I ask nature, because nature itself has archives of environmental changes such as how temperature, rainfall, etc., have changed over time. Specifically, I study reef-building corals and trees as nature's archives from whom I ask what the changes in the climate and ocean over the Indonesian maritime region are.


So how could you exactly get the data that you need from reef-building corals and trees?

If we cut across a tree, we can see its annual rings. From there, not only can we study how the width of these rings changes whenever the ambient environmental condition that this tree experiences change, but also we can learn more from the chemical composition of this tree. So trees can be used to study changes over the land, but here I also look at coral reefs. Corals are not rocks. They are actually start out small and grow out with their accumulated layers. I study these layers of coral to understand changes in ocean temperature, rainfall as well as the health of corals themselves. 


What can we use from these data that you get?

My research questions are indeed close to understanding impact to societies. Firstly, I want to know how climate changes affect rainfall over the Indonesian maritime region. But this is a very large region. So the changes can be different from what happen around Sumatra versus Java, Borneo and so on. Therefore I have been working together with research institutes in Indonesia to collect samples from many sites for us to study from. Secondly, we also want to learn about coral reefs' health because coral reefs are nursery for marine life therefore they are important for societies in Indonesia and the region. By studying corals, we can also learn how climate change causes ocean acidification which would affect corals, making the coral skeleton more porous similar to osteoporosis on human.