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Sharing Star Coral with Star Students

A Virginia Sea Grant fellow introduces her research to young scientists.

by Hannah Aichelman, Virginia Sea Grant graduate research fellow

Hannah Aichelman (left) shows students in the Mentoring Young Scientists program the coral species she studies, Northern star coral. ©Mentoring Young Scientists Program

Hannah Aichelman (left) shows students in the Mentoring Young Scientists Program the coral species she studies, Northern star coral. ©Mentoring Young Scientists Program

Recently, I did an outreach event at the Virginia Aquarium with the Mentoring Young Scientists Program.

Mentoring Young Scientists (MYS) is a program for middle school students in the Hampton Roads area with an interest in marine science. December 16 was their Coral Reef Day, and I was invited by Jovonne Vrechek, head coordinator of the MYS program, to talk to the students all about coral reefs, introduce them to temperate reefs, and answer some of their questions.

Students in the Mentoring Young Scientists Program huddle around Hannah Aichelman (left) as she shows them Northern star coral. ©Mentoring Young Scientists Program

Students in the Mentoring Young Scientists Program huddle around Hannah Aichelman (left) as she shows them Northern star coral. ©Mentoring Young Scientists Program

I gave a quick presentation introducing the topic, including talking about symbiosis, the difference between tropical and temperate reefs, and the importance of both reef types. I brought a couple of corals with me, and after my presentation the students got to take a closer look at the Northern star coral, or Astrangia poculata. In my research, I study how higher temperatures associated with climate change affect Northern star coral, which is found off Virginia’s shores. Some of the students even got to feed the corals hatched brine shrimp. Later, we walked through the aquarium’s exhibits and talked more about coral reefs.

The students asked some great questions. I had a really wonderful time and was impressed by this bright group of future scientists.

You can read more about Aichelman’s research here.