Hanny E. Rivera

Ph.D. Candidate

MIT/WHOI Joint Program, Biology

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Contact Information

Work: 508-289-6383, hrivera@whoi.edu

Building: Redfield 232

Mailing Address: 266 Woods Hole Road, MS #33 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Woods Hole, MA 02543

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., Baums, I.B., et al. Genetic isolation and local adaptation of corals in Palau’s high temperature and low pH bays. In prep.
Barkley, H.C., Cohen, A.L., Rivera, H.E., et al. Coral bleaching, death, and recovery on a central Pacific reef. In review at Nature Communications Biology.
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., expected 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 am now a Ph.D. candidate in Biological Oceanography in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. My research focuses on reef-building corals and their ability to tolerate elevated temperatures.

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 am 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.

In my free time, I volunteer at a local dog shelter. I also enjoy running, riding motorcycles, practicing aerial yoga, and making environmentally friendly household cleaners.