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Reich with test tubes

Biology graduate student receives three awards for outstanding conference presentation

20 August 2019
Reich with former mentor Deb Robertson.
Biology graduate student Hannah Reich received the Robert T. Wilce Award for the best oral presentation by a graduate student at the Northeast Algal Symposium in April, pictured here with former mentor Deborah Robertson, professor of biology at Clark University.

Biology graduate student Hannah Reich has been honored with three awards for a presentation she gave at three scientific conferences during summer 2019. She received the Robert T. Wilce Award for the best oral presentation by a graduate student at the Northeast Algal Symposium in Salem, Massachusetts, in April; the Best PhD Student Talk at the Astrangia Research Workshop in Bristol, Rhode Island, in May; and the Harold C Bold Award for an outstanding graduate student presentation at the Phycological Society of America Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in July. 

“I am honored to have been recognized at these meetings this summer,” said Reich. “Each of these awards has its own unique history within its respective society, and I am flattered to be included in their legacies. After the various awards ceremonies, senior scientists and my peers, including previous winners, went out of their way to congratulate me and make me feel like a part of the future of the society. I look forward to returning the kindness in the years to come.”

Reich’s conference talk, tilted “Iron availability dictates coral symbiont's response to heat stress,” described her research on the microalgae that live symbiotically within the cells of corals. Specifically, she explored how a coral symbiont’s dependence on nutrients like iron may affect their response to warming waters.

Reich and her colleagues found that symbionts with little access to iron that are exposed to heat stress do not survive, while those with access to large quantities of iron can survive at high temperatures. This work demonstrates the role of trace metals in the complex relationship that coral symbionts have with water temperature, which may have implications for how the symbionts, and the corals they inhabit, respond to climate change.

“Hannah has excelled in research during her time at Penn State,” said Reich’s advisor Todd LaJeunesse, professor of biology at Penn State. “Her work opens new areas of important research on the importance of small concentrations of certain nutrients to reef corals facing ongoing climate change.”

In addition to Reich and LaJeunesse, the research team also included Irene B. Rodriguez, associate professor at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, and Tung-Yuan Ho, research fellow at the Academia Sinica Research Center for Environmental Changes in Taipei, China. The collaboration was formed through the National Science Foundation’s East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. Graduate Students (EAPSI) program.