Hi, Hannah Aichelman! Great to have you on ReefBites.
Hannah is currently a PhD student in the Davies Marine Population Genomics Lab at Boston University. Her research focuses on physiological and molecular responses of tropical and temperate corals to rapid climate change. Read more about Hannah’s work below!
Give an elevator pitch of what your research/project is about.
Coral reefs are threatened by anthropogenic global change, specifically increasing ocean temperatures and decreasing pH (ocean acidification, OA) that are both associated with excess CO2 in the atmosphere. The project I have worked on in the first year of my PhD focuses on understanding the long-term effects of both temperature and OA stress on two species of reef-building corals, and also how that response differs in corals inhabiting distinct reef zones.
Why is this research/project important and timely?
Coral reefs are declining at an unprecedented rate, with global coral bleaching events increasing in frequency and severity. This research is critical in identifying mechanisms of resilience in corals, both in terms of finding more resilient species/reef habitats and also understanding the underlying physiology of that resilience.
What is the broader impact and implication of your findings?
I hope that this project leads to a better understanding of the underlying physiological mechanisms that make a coral more or less resilient to global change stressors.
How did you come to work in this field/project?
I first started volunteering in a coral reef ecology lab (with Dr. Karl Castillo) as a senior undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After hours and hours of crushing coral skeleton with a mortar and pestle, I had the opportunity to run my own experiment on the effects of heterotrophy in mitigating thermal stress in the temperate coral Oculina arbuscula. I loved running this experiment, and later went on to become Dr. Castillo’s lab manager. This job cemented my desire to work on coral reefs and eventually pursue graduate school, first a master’s with Dr. Dan Barshis and currently a PhD with Dr. Sarah Davies. The project I am currently working on comes from an experiment run by PhD student Colleen Bove (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Dr. Davies. I am thankful to get to play with the data, and it has served as a great way to jumpstart my PhD!
What is your top graduate school life hack or survival resource?
Grad school has lots of amorphous deadlines and timelines that can sometimes feel impossible to keep on top of. Setting deadlines (even if they are self-imposed) and holding myself to them helps me stay on track and keeps me feeling productive. My biggest survival resource though is spending as much time outside as possible!