Prof. Sam Fey Wins NSF CAREER Award

The associate professor of biology will study thermal refuges amid climate warming.

March 14, 2023

Sam Fey, associate professor of biology, has received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation to support his research on the ecological significance of thermal refuges amid climate warming. The grant, totaling nearly $1.1 million, will fund work over a five-year period and will include the development of an inquiry-based ecology course for undergraduates.

Thermal refuges are areas buffered from extreme weather, and they are expected to be beneficial for organisms and supportive of biodiversity. Fey, whose work centers on how freshwater populations and communities respond to ongoing environmental change, will focus on freshwater ponds in a northwest portion of the Mount St. Helens watershed. Through both experiments and observations, he’ll document and investigate thermal refuges and the organisms (namely phytoplankton and zooplankton) that use them. He also intends to study the effects of thermal stress and extreme temperature events to better understand how thermal refuges influence ecological outcomes amid temperature extremes. As Fey notes in his proposal, such research is vital as climate warming threatens biodiversity and accelerates extinction risks.

As part of the inquiry-based course Fey is developing, undergraduates will play a direct role in this work, receiving the advanced ecological training necessary to collect data and conduct hands-on research.

NSF’s CAREER award targets early-career faculty with a special talent for research and education. Reed faculty have had enormous success with NSF's CAREER program, and Fey joins Profs. Anna Ritz [biology], Kelly Chacón [chemistry], and Sarah Schaack [biology] as recent CAREER recipients. It’s also not the first time Fey’s work has been supported by the NSF: he’s currently at work on another multiyear project on a phenomenon called phenotypic plasticity.

Tags: Academics, Awards & Achievements, Professors, Research