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Hanny E. Rivera

Postdoctoral Scholar

WHOI, Biology


Research Interests

The coral animal is highly sensitive to temperature changes and can die from prolonged exposure to warmer-than-usual waters. In my thesis, I study coral colonies that are more tolerant of temperature spikes. Using population genetics and genomics tools, I explore whether these corals may provide offspring to other reefs with less tolerant coral populations. I also study thermal tolerance in anemones, which are close relatives of corals. Coral reefs are among the world’s most diverse and valuable ecosystems; my research seeks to better understand how reefs will fare in the near future.

Selected Publications

Rivera, H.E., Cohen, A.L, Baums, I.B., et al. Genetic isolation and local adaptation of corals in Palau’s high temperature and low pH bays. In prep

Mollica, N., Cohen, A.L, Rivera, H.E., et al. (2019) Skeletal records of bleaching reveal different thermal thresholds of Pacific coral reef assemblages. Coral Reefs. 

Barkley, H.C., Cohen, A.L., Rivera, H.E., et al. (2018) Repeat bleaching of a central Pacific coral reef over the past six decades (1960-2016). Nature Communications Biology. 1, Article number: 177

Rivera, H.E., and Goodbody-Gringley, G. (2014). Aggregation and cnidae development as early defensive strategies in Favia fragum and Porites astreoides. Coral Reefs. 33, 1079–1084.

Thompson, J.R., Rivera, H.E., Closek, C.J., & Medina, M. (2014). Microbes in the coral holobiont: Partners through evolution, development, and ecological interactions. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 4, 1–20.


Ph.D., 2018. Biological Oceanography. Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program

B.A., 2012. Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, minor in Romance Languages and Literatures. Harvard College.


I grew up snorkeling and SCUBA diving around Miami, Florida, where I developed a fond appreciation for the ocean. As I learned about the threats to coral reefs around the world I decided to pursue a career in marine biology.

I completed my Ph.D. candidate in Biological Oceanography in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. My thesis research focused on reef-building corals and their ability to tolerate elevated temperatures. I am currently a Postdoctoral Associate/Lecturer at Boston University in the Davies Marine Population Genomics Lab, as well as a Postdoctoral Scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the Meyer-Keiser Lab.

I am also passionate about environmental conservation and sustainability. During my time at MIT, I co-founded the Clean Earth Hackathon, in which NGO, government, and private organizations presented sustainability challenges in their respective industries for participants to solve. I was also the co-President of the Broader Impacts Group at WHOI, which helps Joint Program students improve their communication and outreach skills and better connect science and policy.