Zoe Sims, 2017, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Coral reefs are under threat: rising temperatures, ocean acidification, and direct human impacts (such as nutrients from human waste) are major stressors for coral reef ecosystems. Understanding these stressors and how they combine is crucial to understanding the future of coral reefs and to creating successful strategies to protect them. This summer I studied the effects of Bermuda’s groundwater discharge, which is heavily impacted by human wastewater, on the island’s coral reefs. I aimed to characterize the groundwater’s impacts on reef chemistry, and to preliminarily quantify its effects on coral ecology. I had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from the Cohen Lab at WHOI and the Sigman Lab, conducting fieldwork at a near-shore reef in Bermuda. This project provided an invaluable opportunity to learn first-hand the challenges and incredible rewards of leading my own research. I learned the basics of marine fieldwork and chemical oceanography, and gained critical experience managing data and analyzing samples in the lab. Moving forward, many questions remain. I am continuing to analyze my field data and samples, and I am excited to return to these questions next summer, moving towards my thesis.