Andrea Grottoli is a Professor in the School of Earth Sciences (SES) at The Ohio State University. Professor Grottoli received her BSc. from McGill University (1992), her PhD from the University of Houston (1998) and completed postdoctoral training at the University of California – Irvine (2000). She and her team are focused on three areas of research: 1- determining what drives resilience in corals in the face of climate change, 2- reconstructing oceanographic conditions in the past based on coral skeletal isotope and trace metal records, and 3- the impact of land-use on the delivery of carbon to small tropical and temperate rivers.
- In 2 sentences, explain your work with the HWHF?
My work is focused on providing meaningful research training and learning opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students. Students are studying the effects of climate change on corals with the aim of identifying biological traits that confer resilience to climate change conditions in the tropical ocean.
- Describe what your organization does best
I am dedicated to the education and training of the next generation of marine scientists. I am also passionate about the study of coral reefs and how research can gives us windows into how to best protect and conserve coral reefs from climate change.
- What’s the best part of your day?
Getting a welcome hug from my 8-year old daughter when she comes home from school.
- What are you currently working on?
I am involved in a 3-year experiment on Hawaiian corals. We are rearing 8 species of corals from 6 different locations under conditions expected by the end of this century (i.e., elevated temperature and ocean acidification) to see if they can acclimate or adapt. This is collaborative with scientists at the University of Hawaii. We hypothesize that some species, or populations of corals within a species, will be able to adapt or acclimate. We are quantifying the biology and genetics of these corals so that we can identify what factors drive adaptability and acclimation within corals. We hope to leverage this work to formulate science-based strategies for coral conservation.
- When did you know you wanted to be a(n) professor?
I did not know I wanted to be a university professor until I had finished my first year of graduate school. I participated in a graduate student field-course on corals in Hawaii in the summer after my first year, and never looked back.
- What piece of advice would you give someone looking to break into this field?
First, you have to choose what you like best. If you like what you are studying/learning, you will end up in the right place. Second, to work on corals you really need a graduate degree. To get into graduate school, you need good grades and research experience (preferably a senior thesis and at least two years of lab experience) to be competitive. When applying to graduate school, identify the faculty member you want to work with irrespective of the program or university they are associated with. Contact that faculty member several months before the application deadline to find out if they are accepting students into their research group the next year, and let them know who you are. Third, after graduate school there are a few options: government work (i.e., NOAA, EPA, USGS), non-governmental organizations, private companies, and academia. Most coral research is done within governments agencies and academia. To get a job as a professor, you typically have to do 1-3 years as a postdoctoral researcher and publish several articles in journals before being competitive for a faculty position.
- What do you read for fun?
Novels. Both fiction and non-fiction. My favorite book lately was “Station Eleven” by Emilie St. John.
- Are you a Windows or Apple person?
- What’s one thing you can’t work without?
- Who do you admire and why?
Hillary Clinton. She is blazing a trail for women in a world that judges her very harshly in part, because she is a woman. She is a shining example of perseverance, determination, brilliance, competence, and fight. And she is a mother on top of all of that.
- What’s the most interesting place you have ever been (for work)?
Republic of Palau
- What’s the most interesting thing you have ever done?
There are two things: 1- I did a two-week submersible habitat mission in the Aquarius Habitat off of Key Largo, FL and 2- I gave a TEDx OSU talk a couple of years ago and it was a really different way of thinking about how I present my research.
- What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for your work?
Republic of Palau
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
In work I am most proud of my publication in Nature and the TEDx OSU speech. In life I am most proud of my daughter.
- What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I hope to continue to study corals, to train and educate the next generation of marine scientists, and to move into more leadership roles within the research and university community.
- What’s your favorite activity outside of work?
Doing fun things with my family, traveling, and cooking.
- If you were on an island and could only bring three things – what would they be?
I am assuming this is a deserted island, so I would choose a jackknife, fishing line, flint.
- How do you define success and how do you measure it?
Success is publishing my research, watching my graduate student publish and get jobs, seeing the twinkle in the eyes of the students in my classes when they “get it”, having a random conversation with a student that turns out to be a turning point for them or me, and at the end of the day have the support and love of my family.
- Who were the most important people to help you create success in your life and what did they do for/with you?
My parents created a home environment that promoted curiosity and independence, a sense of responsibility and accountability, and love and support. This was key in shaping me to be the person I am. I also had a mentor when I was a graduate student, and continues to be a mentor today, who at key moments in my career offered the right advice, provided the right opportunity, and also nominated me for an important early career award that helped to get me my faculty positions.
- If you could do something as a career other than what you are doing now (no limits) what would it be?
I might be a writer. Or still a scientist but study cephalopods – not sure if that is different enough.
- What are your top 3 favorite movies of all time?
The Matrix, The Piano, and there are several in third place.
- What are you doing now that will make a positive difference for future generations?
Students are the future generation that will deal with the world’s future challenges. I have had 55 undergraduates and 15 graduate students involved in research in my lab over the years. The most meaningful experiences are had when the students get to participate in both lab and field work. I am now running a year-long internship program, thanks to the funding from the HW Hoover Foundation, so that undergraduate students can have a more meaningful and comprehensive research experience that includes a month in the field working with corals in our experiments, a year of collaborative work in the lab, the completion of a senior thesis, and the full participation in my research team and a fully integrated team member. This is a very unique program and give students the unique opportunity to get involved in research in a meaningful way that prepares them for graduate school or the work force.