Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Professor Emeritus Gerald Smith was honored with the first Joseph S. Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. The award recognizes an outstanding body of work in ichthyology, in honor of the late Joseph S. Nelson. The awardee is selected on the basis of the quality of research and impact of education and service.
"I was glad to see Gerry recognized by the ASIH with the Nelson Award,” said Prosanta Chakrabarty (Ph.D. EEB 2006). “Gerry has important publications in systematics, paleontology, morphometrics, geology, and molecular biology.
“He has been an important mentor for me particularly in teaching me that it is okay to have diverse interests and to challenge myself to try to answer scientific questions that may be out of my immediate comfort zone of expertise.” Smith served on Chakrabarty’s Ph.D. committee.
Smith was curator of the Museum of Zoology, curator of the Museum of Paleontology, professor of Geologic Sciences, and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. He retired in 2003, but continues to teach and do research. He also served as the director of the Museum of Paleontology, director of the Museum of Zoology, and director of the Herbarium.
Smith’s classes connected evolutionary biology and earth history, and included historical geology, vertebrate paleontology, geology of Michigan, biogeography, ichthyology laboratory, fish behavior, fish adaptation, and animal diversity. He chaired or co-chaired 25 doctoral committees. He is a past president of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.
His research focused on the evolution of freshwater fishes of North America, including the fossil record of the past 15 million years. He authored or co-authored 98 peer-reviewed research papers and book chapters, and three books. Smith developed quantitative methods for studying biogeography, hybridization, morphometrics, and rates of evolution. He and his students analyzed fish evolution in ancient lakes and rivers of the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau, and Columbia River Basin, and he established evolutionary relationships of salmon and trout, whitefish, and suckers.
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