Amy Amatya ’21, Geosciences

I was part of a project studying the adaptive mechanisms of mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) against rapid climate change from the perspective of reproductive ecology. Studies of larval size are imperative to understanding coral fitness and thermal acclimation. Specimens with larger larvae exhibit higher adult survivorship. I investigated the effects of formalin fixation — preserving coral samples with aqueous formaldehyde — on larval volume, which would make coral-size studies more comprehensive and flexible. I photographed larvae every day to determine volume before and after fixation using machine learning-facilitated image analysis. I gained lab experience, greater familiarity with the MATLAB programming language, and guidance from kind and knowledgeable mentors. Most importantly, I came away with a better grasp of what it means to pursue meaningful work. Corals serve as valuable assays of marine biodiversity. They capture and communicate the universality of climate change. In this way, my summer experience inspired me to pursue socially impactful and globally relevant work in whichever field I follow.