UR biology professor Malcolm Hill receives NSF award for his research on the impact of Hurricane Irma on marine ecosystems

January 5, 2018

Malcolm Hill University of Richmond biology professor Malcolm Hill has been awarded a $49,234 grant from the National Science Foundation for a research project examining the effects of Hurricane Irma on sponge and other invertebrate fauna in shallow marine habitats in Florida. Sponges are an important part of the marine ecosystem and support coral reef health, and macroinvertebrates form the base of food webs in important fisheries habitats.

His project, "RAPID: Effects of Hurricane Irma on shallow-water marine ecosystems: Assessing resiliency of sponge and macroinvertebrate communities in the Florida Keys,” is already underway. Hill conducted surveys of sponges in December, and three of his undergraduate students will return for more extensive surveys in June and July of 2018.

“We predicted that certain large body sponges would be disproportionately affected by the hurricane, and preliminary surveys indicate that to be the case” said Hill. “Survey work supported by this grant will allow us to compare pre- and post-storm sponge population characteristics.”

“What’s really wonderful is that this funding supports research by a strong team of young scientists including several undergraduates who have been underrepresented in STEM, specifically biological research conducted in the field,” Hill added.

Hill has taught at UR since 2004. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology at Colby College and completed his Ph.D. in Coral Reef Evolutionary Ecology at the University of Houston. He has been awarded a number of grants for research and teaching, the most recent being a collaborative NSF grant for study of sponge-algae symbiosis.

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