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Rackham International Research Awards go to Valencia-Mestre and Yitbarek
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Kudos to doctoral students Mariana Valencia-Mestre and Senay Yitbarek who have won Rackham International Research Awards.
Valencia-Mestre received $6,500 for her project titled “Cattle ranchers, agricultural regimes and biodiversity in the tropics.” She is working with her advisor, Professor John Vandermeer.
Valencia-Mestre will spend this summer in the Republic of Panama and will explore options in other areas across Mesoamerica. Her interests lie in the syndromes of production in agriculture and specifically in cattle ranching systems across Mesoamerica and how farmers that produce beef and/or milk manage trees within their farms.
“It is well known that cattle ranching across the Neotropics comes at a cost to the forest,” Valencia-Mestre said. “However, there are different styles of cattle ranching that range from treeless pastures to silvopastoral systems with rich tree canopies. We propose that these different styles of tree management across cattle ranching systems are socioecological regimes."
She will spend the summer searching for different styles of cattle ranching management across Panama, measuring tree cover across farms, and will begin to design farmer perception interviews. Valencia-Mestre’s research seeks to identify the extent of different styles of tree management across Mesoamerica and drivers of the various styles. Her aim is to describe different styles using an index of agricultural intensification based on tree cover.
Senay Yitbarek received $6,000 for his project, “Metastatic invasions of the little fire ant W. auropunctata.” Yitbarek’s advisor is also Vandermeer.
Yitbarek is investigating the invasion dynamics of the little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata, considered to be one of the world’s top 100 invasive pests. “This species is not considered to be an invasive in its native range, but drastically reduces ant biodiversity outside of its native range,” Yitbarek said. “The question of why this is the case continues to be perplexing to many ecologists. By combining theoretical aspects of spatial competition, empirical analysis of competitive networks, and field observation in both Mexico and Puerto Rico, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the invasion dynamics associated with W. auropunctata.”
The Rackham Graduate School’s Rackham International Research Awards (RIRA) support doctoral and master’s students conducting degree-related research outside the United States and Puerto Rico. Applicants must have astrong academic record and show outstanding scholarly and professional promise.
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Massatti and Li awarded NSF DDIGs
Monday, May 20, 2013
Congratulations to Rob Massatii and Jingchun Li who were awarded Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants from the National Science Foundation.
Massatti studies plant systematics, taxonomy and population biology. His project is titled “Tests of parallel divergence processes in montane plants: links between population differentiation and species diversity patterns.”
“The processes that historically affected species diversification are being exacerbated today as the climate warms, forcing upper montane and alpine species to establish at higher altitudes,” states Massatti’s proposal. “As their habitat disappears, it is foreseeable that species adapted to the coldest and harshest habitats will be extirpated. To maintain diversity, humans will have to reintroduce species into appropriate habitat. Because resources are very limited for these types of activities, conservation practitioners must use the best available information to ensure that their efforts will succeed. This research will inform conservation’s best practices by determining what factors affect the geographic distribution of species’ genetic variation. Fine-tuning species distribution modeling will also provide practical benefits because it will help conservation practitioners narrow down potential areas suitable for reintroduction efforts.
Massatti, whose advisors are Drs. Lacey Knowles and Tony Reznicek was awarded $20,215 for two years.
Li researches speciation, biogeography and marine invertebrate ecology. Her project title is “The role of biotic association in the evolution of a megadiverse marine bivalve clade.”
“Both geographic and ecological factors influence diversification patterns of taxa,” according to Li. “I am interested in how ecological factors, especially biotic associations, affect lineage diversification processes in marine environments. My study system is the hyper-diverse marine bivalve superfamily Galeommatoidea”
Many members in this group have either necessary (obligate) or optional (facultative) associations with other marine invertebrates. These associations are mostly commensal, wherein one organism benefits without affecting the other. Li is testing whether the unique lifestyle of galeommatoideans contributes to their high species diversity and morphological disparity, and if so, seeking possible mechanisms.
"My initial analysis on galeommatoidean lineage diversification showed that the free-living clams exhibit a higher diversification rate compared to the commensal lineages. The proposed DDIG project on analyzing trait evolution of both commensal and free-living species will help me to expand my research scope to include not only the lineage diversification processes but also the morphological evolution of this group. Connecting rates of evolution to the evolution of actual (and possibly functional) phenotypic traits will provide further insights into how biotic vs. abiotic factors influence the radiation of this diverse marine clade."
Li, whose advisor is Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, was awarded $18,722 for two years.
The NSF awards DDIGs in selected areas of the biological sciences. These grants provide partial support of doctoral dissertation research to improve the overall quality of research including costs for doctoral candidates to participate in scientific meetings, to conduct research in specialized facilities or field settings, and to expand an existing body of dissertation research.
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Wilson wins Epidemiology Faculty of the Year
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Professor Mark Wilson was voted Epidemiology Faculty of the Year by his students for his teaching and mentoring in the 2012-13 academic year.
Wilson, who is jointly appointed in EEB, regularly visits Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana to work on his own public health projects and to assist master of public health students in their international internships and studies. Read more about Wilson in a recent Faculty Spotlight in the University Record.
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Great turnout for EEB's Spring-a-Ling 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
May 10, 2013 -- On a chilly spring afternoon, EEB faculty, students, staff, families, friends and even dogs, broke bread together at Gallup Park for the annual Spring-a-Ling picnic.
Grillers took turns cooking delicious beef and veggie burgers and hot dogs and most of the rest was pot luck style. Partygoers played bean bag toss, hacky sack, and croquet. Everyone enjoyed the collegiality. Toddlers toddled. Babies giggled and then fussed when they were ready to call it a night. Dogs socialized. The beautiful setting with the greening and blooming landscape provided a perfect backdrop for the festivities. Ducks, swans, and geese swam in the surrounding waters.
EEB Chair and Professor Deborah Goldberg made the annual announcement of awards and honors over the past academic year and revealed the winner of Outstanding Student Paper Award. Qixin He’s paper “Integrative testing of how environments from the past to the present shape genetic structure across landscapes” was the winner. Watch for more information coming soon to EEB web news.
Special thanks to the social committee for organizing the event: Cindy Carl, Dr. Laura Eidietis, Michael Ehnis, Mark Brahce, and graduate student Andrea Thomaz. An additional shout out to Damon Place, Sonja Botes, Yin-Long Qiu, and everyone who helped set up and clean up.
Photo credit: Mark O'Brien.
Welcome new HR and purchasing staff
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Campbell was promoted to human resource generalist for the Departments of EEB and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology in January 2013. She began as an administrative assistant for MCDB in late 2005 and became a human resources assistant in June 2007. Campbell earned the certification of Professional in Human Resources in 2011.
Ampene was hired in April 2013 as a human resources assistant. She worked for the human resource office of the University of Colorado Boulder for over four years where she was responsible for personnel file maintenance, employment verification, I-9 processing, payroll, timekeeping, and event planning. She was also a temporary employee in the U-M Office for the Vice President of Research for six months doing clerical work.
“I am looking forward to sharing my experiences in the HR field and also learning more to improve on my working abilities,” Ampene said. Outside of work, she loves to travel and bike ride with her children.
Beaumont is the new biology purchasing clerk. Beaumont was a purchasing coordinator for Harvard University Systems Biology where he worked on a team that installed several new research areas in the Systems Biology Department including Drosophila, Zebrafish, Confocal Microscopy, Flow Cytometry, and a Microfluidics Cleanroom. He has also worked as a purchasing specialist for the biology department at UCLA.
“I look forward to helping all members of the department with their research in any way possible,” said Beaumont. In his free time, he enjoys long distance biking, especially in state and national parks. He also interested in technology and Seinfeld reruns.
Glebe was recently promoted from buyer assistant to full-time purchasing clerk in March 2013. She began her position as assistant buyer in August 2005. She is enthused to assist the MCDB and EEB departments with their ordering needs.
Glebe is a Jazzercise instructor and franchise owner who enjoys dancing and helping others achieve their fitness goals.
U-M News video about BioBlitz on U-M Gateway
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
About 80 students from Detroit’s Western International High School gathered to conduct a biodiversity survey on Belle Isle with the help of U-M EEB volunteers. The students began to locate and identify mammals and birds; trees, shrubs and other plants; amphibians; reptiles; insects; and fungi on Wednesday morning, April 24, 2013. But, even the best laid plans sometimes fall victim to the weather.
Unfortunately, it was a cold and rainy (sometimes snowy) morning and so between creatures taking cover and worksheets getting soggy, not to mention cold and wet students, the group detoured into the Belle Isle Nature Zoo and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory to make the most of the day. They did manage to gather some useful information, mostly on birds and plants, which will be entered into the inaturalist database.
The purpose of the annual event is to promote local ecological knowledge and to increase participation of underrepresented groups in ecological education. The Belle Isle event is part of BioBlitz, a series of rapid biodiversity surveys being conducted this year on college campuses across the country, coordinated by local chapters of the Ecological Society of America’s SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) program.
The outing was sponsored by the U-M’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, School of Natural Resources and Environment, U-M chapter of the Ecological Society of America’s SEEDS program, Detroit Zoological Society and Belle Isle Conservancy.
Special thanks to EEB and biology student volunteers: Beatriz Otero Jimenez, one of the primary event coordinators and a graduate student mentor with SEEDS, Marcella Baiz, Katy Lazarus (undergraduate), Naim Edwards, Thomas Jenkinson, Clarisse Betancourt, John Marino, Tatia Bauer, (undergraduate), Mariana Valencia Mestre, and Omar Bonilla.
U-M News Service video
Michigan Radio podcast
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Coveted NSF Graduate Research Fellowships announced
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
EEB Ph.D. student Marian Schmidt and incoming Ph.D. student Joanna Larson have been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. They receive $30,000 a year for three years and an additional $10,500 cost of education allowance each year for tuition and fees.
"During my Ph.D. at U of M, I hope to transform into an aquatic microbial ecologist,” said Schmidt. “I am interested in how invasive species shape microbial diversity and function and the implications of this for nutrient cycling at the ecosystem level. Specifically, I will focus on how the presence of the invasive zebra mussel influences the carbon processing of heterotrophic bacteria in freshwater Michigan lakes.” Schmidt’s advisor is Professor Vincent Denef.
Joanna Larson is an incoming Ph.D. student who graduated from Harvard University with her bachelor of arts degree in organismic and evolutionary biology. Her research interests are in the macroevolution of African amphibians, and integration of morphological and molecular data. Her advisors will be Professors Dan Rabosky and Lacey Knowles. She is currently in Gabon, Africa.
The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. The GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in the U.S. and abroad. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners.
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Shining the spotlight on Megahan
Monday, May 06, 2013
“A scientist and artist by training (he received his master’s in marine biology and studied both fine arts and biology as an undergraduate), he was passionate about both fields,” according to the article. Read about how “Megahan straddles the art and science spheres.”
Admini golf returns for staff appreciation week
Friday, May 03, 2013
Each year in late April, the EEB administrative offices transform into a series of putting greens for an afternoon of “admini golf.” The fun and games are part of a week of events to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the staff throughout the year.
The theme this year was Pure Michigan. Staff displayed and voted on their photos that depicted the spirit of our beautiful state. Bethany Christoff’s photo with her son, Max, in a community garden, captured first place. Janet Bell’s collage showing the making of maple syrup with her husband, Chet, came in second. A three-way tie for third was between Amber Stadler with a giant fish caught by her uncle, Vlad Miskevich’s trail at the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, and Sonja Botes’ collage of Detroit highlights featuring her with friends.
The mini golf courses included an expansive Mackinac Bridge (first place for favorite golf hole by Sonja Botes), a fishing pond, a Michigan pot hole, a map of Michigan featuring lighthouses, the Motor City, a Michigan State University homage, the food products of Michigan, a misty (thanks to dry ice) woodland scene featuring deer and elk, and a second Mackinac Bridge that ended in an agar lake.
Two newcomers were the winning team with the lowest golf score of 33 this year -- Courtney Long and Professor Chris Dick. Two experienced golfers had the most fun on the course with the highest score -- Mark Brahce and Michael Ehnis (the score is under wraps). There were 15 holes-in-one, which is probably a record for our admini golf course, according to Nancy Smith, EEB department manager. The ace putting teams include: Jackie Glebe and Alex Livne, Cindy Carl and Chris Davis, John Megahan and Janet Bell, Robbin Murrell and Rita Barvinok, Charles Davey and Professor Deborah Goldberg, Dennis Drobeck and Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, Yoni Drazen and Awura Ampene, Vlad Miskevitch and Nancy Smith, Bethany Christoff and Amber Stadler.
The staff played their favorite weekly email game, Tuesday Trivia, and Cindy Carl won by correctly guessing that Awura Ampene was born in a taxi and gave birth to her first child in her husband’s car. The winning team for a matching trivia identification game was Jason Dobkowski and Sara Fortin.
“Thank you all again – you truly are the best staff in the university!” said Smith.
See a photo collage of admini golf.
Captions: (top) Charles Davey, Deborah Goldberg and Dennis Drobeck putt their way through the offices. (bottom) Courtney Long and Chris Dick are on their way to winning lowest score. Credit: Dale Austin.
UMMZ announces student awards
Thursday, May 02, 2013
Each year, the U-M Museum of Zoology uses its historical endowments, some of which date from the early 1900s, to support graduate students research projects through scholarship awards.
The Mary R. Swales Scholarship for a graduate student in the Museum of Zoology who is researching birds, was awarded to Omar Bonilla.
Bonilla researches at the E.S. George Reserve in Pinckney, Mich., investigating the role of native ornithochorous plants and avian seed dispersers in the spread of invasive ornithochorous plants. Ornithochorous plants share a mutualistic interaction with birds, whereby birds eat the plant’s fruit and disperse its seeds. Bonilla will attempt to identify the spatial patterns of seed deposition of these invasive plants, and to classify the avian seed disperser community by their importance in spreading invasive species of the plants. Bonilla, whose advisor is Professor Elizabeth Pringle, received $2,000.
Bradshaw Hall Swales married Mary Rhoda Medbury in 1902. Swales earned his undergraduate and master of law degrees from U-M in 1896 and 1897. He passed the bar exam later that year and began to practice law in Detroit. His interest in birds began at an early age. He donated a collection of about 2,000 bird skins to the U-M Museum of Zoology and upon his death left the museum his considerable ornithological library. From 1912, Swales was a member of the museum's governing board and was an honorary assistant in ornithology.
The Robert R. and Francis H. Miller Scholarship, which supports graduate student research in the museum for students in the field of ichthyology, went to Alison Gould.
Gould's dissertation research seeks to define the population genetic structure of the sea urchin cardinalfish, Siphamia versicolor, and its luminous bacterial symbiont, Photobacterium mandapamensis, in Okinawa, Japan. This summer she will be sampling populations of the fish at various coral reefs around Okinawa in order to compare the geographic patterns of genetic structure between populations of the host fish and its symbiont in the region. Gould, whose advisor is Professor Paul Dunlap , received $1,000.
The Robert R. and Francis H. Miller Endowment was set up by their children in 2003. Miller and his wife, Francis Hubbs Miller, worked in the Fish Division for many years, he as curator of fishes and she as a research associate. He was the foremost authority on the fishes of Mexico (and wrote the definitive book on the subject, published posthumously) and she was his partner in almost everything they did, according to Professor William Fink.
Jen-Pan Huang and Rob Massatti received the Hinsdale Scholarship, which was created to support doctoral student research in the museum.
Huang is interested in evolutionary processes that generate the diversity of life forms. Currently, he is working on testing the hypothesis of adaptation by interspecific hybridization in Hercules beetles. Different colorations found in Hercules Beetles are believed to have camouflage functions. Different species that live in the same habitat, however, share similar coloration. Since hybridization is possible between species in Hercules Beetles, they are thus excellent candidates for testing if hybridization could have play a role in promoting adaptation and shaping species specific morphology in nature. Huang, whose advisor is Professor Lacey Knowles, was awarded $4,000.
Massatti is interested in the diversity and distributional patterns of plants that occupy mountainous regions. He studies the effects of Pleistocene glaciations on plant diversification at different spatial scales (regional and intercontinental) using Carex section Racemosae, which includes about 60 species distributed primarily in eastern Asia and western North America. Additionally, he investigates how historical and contemporary environmental gradients influence species' distributions by utilizing fine-scale distributional data of the flora of the southern and central Rocky Mountains.
“The results of my research will be applicable not only to future studies of macroevolution, but it will inform conservation professionals about the potential impacts of climate change on plants in montane ecosystems,” Massatti said. Massatti, whose advisors are Knowles and Dr. Tony Reznicek, received $4,000.
Edwin C. Hinsdale, who the scholarship was named for, was one of the best known and most highly honored pioneer citizens of Detroit. He gained distinction in civic affairs, as a member of the bar, and for his boundless charitable works. He attended U-M for one year from 1847 – 1848. He was admitted to the Michigan bar in 1858 and practiced until his death nearly 40 years later. He was the treasurer of the city of Detroit from 1871- 1876, bringing order out of a chaotic time. In 1921, Genevieve S. Hinsdale bequeathed a part of her estate to establish a scholarship in her father’s name.
Pascal Title was awarded the Charles F. Walker Scholarship, which supports graduate student field research in herpetology.
Title’s research involves investigating controls on the accumulation of species. Different regions appear to support different amounts of biodiversity, and this often depends on the phylogenetic origin of the groups under study. He is interested in determining if different climatic zones lead to differential species diversification. He’s also interested in what controls species' geographic distributions.
“Abiotic factors such as temperature and precipitation could be the most important factors, or species interactions and character displacement might play a prominent role in the maintenance of range boundaries, and this may be important in the context of secondary contact following speciation,” he said. Title will use Australian reptiles as a study system to address these questions, and will collect data at both continental scales, as well as at population-level scales. Title, whose advisor is Professor Dan Rabosky, received $2,500.
Charles F. Walker was an honored and much loved curator from 1947 - 1975. His former students and faculty associates created the fund to commemorate and extend the activities he was famous for. He influenced many students in different fields of zoology well beyond herpetology.
Read about the Donald W. Tinkle Scholarship, UMMZ's most prestigious student scholarship, which was awarded to Jingchun Li, in previous EEB web news.
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Records 1 to 10 of 296