Magazine article American Scientist

Sigma XI Awards Its First Climate Science Grant

Magazine article American Scientist

Sigma XI Awards Its First Climate Science Grant

Article excerpt

A new chapter has begun for Sigma Xi's 96-year-old Grants-in-Aid of Research (GIAR) program. It has awarded its first grant from the program's new category of climate science. The award went to Anna Knöchel, an undergraduate student at Rice University.

"More than anything, receiving this grant has helped solidify my confidence as a researcher," said Knöchel. This is her first grant. She plans to graduate in 2019 with a bachelor's of science degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Under the guidance of her advisor, Sigma Xi member Adrienne M.S. Correa, PhD, in the Biosciences Department at Rice, Knöchel will use the $764 grant to investigate the role that viruses play in coral reef ecosystems, particularly in single-celled algae that live in coral tissues, Symbiodinium spp., and in a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. A coral turns white or pale when the symbiotic relationship between it and organisms that live in its tissue becomes stressed and the organisms leave, making the coral susceptible to disease. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, increased ocean temperature caused by climate change is the leading cause of coral bleaching.

"The plausible role that viruses play in the mechanism of coral bleaching, death, and recovery is crucial to understanding how reef community dynamics will shift in the near future," Knöchel wrote in her grant proposal.

She will use her GIAR funds to purchase different genetic types of Symbiodinium and to learn techniques in transmission electron microscopy to observe signs of viral infection. …

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