In memoriam – Carl Gans
Professor Emeritus Carl Gans, 86, died peacefully after a long illness in Austin, Texas, on November 30, 2009. He was Professor of Biology and Chairperson of Zoology at U-M until his retirement in 1998. Earlier in his career, Gans was a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow from 1953 to 1955 conducting reptile studies in Brazil. He was professor of biology and department chairperson at the University of Buffalo (later SUNY) from 1958 to 1971.
Gan's had hundreds of publications in comparative biomechanics and evolutionary physiology with a primary focus on reptiles and amphibians. He became world-known as editor of the journal Morphology for 25 years and as the editor of the monumental 23-volume "Biology of the Reptilia," published between 1969 and 2009. His first book-length publication was "Biomechanics" in which he combined his engineering and biology backgrounds. He co-authored two biology texts used in universities throughout the United States: "A Photographic Atlas of Shark Anatomy" and "Electromyography for Experimentalists." He also wrote the popular paperback book "Reptiles of the World," translated into many languages.
His library of over 20,000 items in herpetology is currently at Ben Gurion University in Israel, which also has his extensive scientific correspondence. His other publications may be found at the Scripps Institute, University of California, San Diego, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. His extensive animal collections, which he gathered on five continents over many decades, can be found at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburg, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. Modified from the New York Times.
Climate change legislative update
Professor Knute Nadelhoffer delivered a letter supporting federal action on climate change to Washington, D.C. in fall 2009. The letter currently has over 200 signatures (nearly half from U-M) from members of the Michigan scientific community, an impressive endorsement from a diverse set of researchers in our state. The letter has led to much discussion with the Michigan Senate and House staffers (esp. Sen. Stabenow, Reps. Stupak and Dingle). "We hope it helped and will continue to influence our representatives' positions," said Nadelhoffer, director of the U-M Biological Station.
In fact, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed the "Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act" (aka the Boxer-Kerry Bill) on November 5, 2009. Vote by the full Senate and drafting of the joint bill with the House remain to be done.
"Our efforts in Michigan thus far have had positive effects on scientist efforts in other states, particularly in the Great Lakes region," Nadelhoffer said. "We expect that researchers in neighboring states will follow our lead in giving their senators the backing they need to move forward on this important topic."
Coming to a TV near you
The Big Ten Network's broadcast of the "Out of the Blue" segments filmed at the U-M BioStation was delayed. They begin airing Friday, Jan. 8 at 3 p.m.
Reindeer games and names
The EEB administrative office's winter mascot has been dubbed Bones as a result of a random drawing of names submitted at the holiday party. The lighted deer was a gift from Professor John Vandermeer; the winning name was submitted by Adam Ferris-Smith.
Other suggested monikers were: Bosco (Sue Campbell); Masta-Deer (Kate Heller); Chet (Mike Stadler); Darwin (Jen Kostrzewski); Brian Sedio (Liz Wason); Carrie Boo (Professor Mark Hunter); Goofester (Mateo Marchan); Tim, Spot (Tim Kuhnlein); Stani Slaus (Kaye Hill); Zebra Eater (Amber Stadler); John Deer, VanDeer, VanderDeer, Professor, Deerwin, Darwin, Sparkle, Snowflake, Twinkle, Joy (Gail Kuhnlein got carried away!); Fred (Diana Hirsch); Ringo (Nancy Smith).
Two Rackham International Student Fellowships
EEB graduate students Jingchun Li and Leiling Tao have each been awarded a Rackham International Student Fellowship. The award of $7,500 is based on their strong academic records, progress toward their degrees, demonstration of outstanding academic and professional promise and can be used for stipend or tuition. Congratulations!
Killer catfish? Venomous species surprisingly common
EEB graduate student Jeremy Wright's published research in BMC Evolutionary Biology was once featured on the University of Michigan and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts home pages. At least 1250 species of catfish may be venomous and there are two or more independent evolutionary origins of the venom glands, according to his comprehensive histological and toxicological examination of these fish. (U-M News Service press release)
Holy bat award!
Emily Sluzas won the best student poster prize from the North American Society for Bat Research at its 39th annual symposium in Portland, Ore. in early November, 2009. Her poster was entitled "Dietary niche of two Myotis species in northern Michigan: an investigation of the niche variation hypothesis." The $200 prize is sponsored by Basically Bats Wildlife Conservation Society.
Planet Blue Kraus open house a rousing success!
More than 180 people who work in the Kraus Natural Science Building attended the open house on October 8, 2009. The event featured booths on energy savings, building systems, recycling, waste reduction, alternative transportation, green purchasing and Climate Savers. Planet Blue staff was on hand to answer questions, share information and listen to building concerns. Planet Blue thanks everyone for their enthusiastic participation and support.
If you haven't done so, you can sign up to be a Planet Blue Citizen.
Spotlight shines on EEB students
EEB Ph.D. students Joseph Brown, Heidi Liere and Sandra Yap are featured on the Rackham Graduate School Web site.
BioStation on Big 10 Network
The Big 10 Network/Michigan Productions filmed an episode of "Out of the Blue" at the U-M Biological Station this fall, as well as a separate piece about Professor Guy Meadows' "Flying Fish" project in operation on Douglas Lake.
Watch for starring roles beginning soon, by Jim LeMoine, research lab specialist; Jasmine Crumsey, EEB Ph.D. student; Luke Nave, research fellow; and Chris Vogel, assistant research scientist. According to Professor Knute Nadelhoffer, the piece does a good job explaining some of the station's carbon cycle research, includes some nice historic photos and spectacular views from atop the Prophet tower. The segments were produced by Chris McElroy and narrated by Jimmy Rhoades. Broadcast begins on January 8, 2010 at 3 p.m.
Download and view "Out of the Blue" segments.
Congratulations to our Honorary Photographer at Large David Marvin for his winning photograph of CO2 chambers at night taken at the U-M Biological Station. Kudos also go to Paul Dunlap for Tridacna and Susanna Messinger for sunset tent, which tied for second place. Brava to Jess Middlemis Maher for frost on highbush cranberries and Susanna Messinger for Tomtit, tied for 3rd place. Honorable mention goes to Alexa Unruh for her Scarlet Macaw from Ecuador.
Thank you to everyone who submitted photographs, there were so many really incredible photos, the competition was tough. David Bay would be proud. Get your cameras and photographic eyes ready for next year's contest. We look forward to being armchair travelers again through your lenses.
New faculty book: The Changing Environment of Northern Michigan: A Century of Science and Nature at the University of Michigan Biological Station
Edited by Professors Knute J. Nadelhoffer, Alan J. Hogg, and Brian A. Hazlett, this new book covers the last century of scientific study of wildlife and environmental change at the U-M BioStation.
Northern Michigan is undergoing unprecedented changes in land use, climate, resource extraction, and species distributions. For the last hundred years, the University of Michigan Biological Station has monitored these environmental transformations. Stretching 10,000 acres along Burt and Douglas Lakes in the northern Lower Peninsula and 3,200 acres on Sugar Island near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, the station has played host to nearly 10,000 students and a steady stream of top scientists in the fields of biology, ecology, geology, archeology, and climatology.
"The Changing Environment of Northern Michigan" collects essays by some of these scientists, who lead readers on virtual field trips exploring the history of people and science at the station itself, the relations of indigenous people to the land, the geophysical history of the region, characteristics of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, key groups of organisms and their relations to local habitats, and perspectives on critical environmental challenges of today and their effects on the region. Accompanying the chapters are color illustrations and photographs that bring the station's pristine setting to life. For further information and to order the book, visit the University of Michigan Press.
Learning about teaching: Ammerlaan awarded Teagle Fellowship
Dr. Marc Ammerlaan was awarded the Teagle Fellowship for the 2009-10 academic year to examine the way students learn, funded by a grant through the U-M Center for Research and Learning on Teaching. Fellowship recipients include five instructors from the sciences, and five from humanities and social sciences who will form the Colloquium on the Science of Learning. Fellows are selected based on their commitment to teaching and collegiality.
The fellows read key articles, discuss papers critically and in relation to their own teaching and their students' learning, attend presentations by relevant experts, and trade perspectives. This year begins a new focus on multiculturalism and diversity. He finds it invigorating and rejuvenating to connect with faculty from across campus to share ideas, especially about how to reach students and learn new ways to present challenging, stimulating material to them. He's excited about attending seminars that keep him thinking about teaching. At the end of the academic year, CRLT will host a forum for panels of Teagle Fellows to present commentary based on the literature and discussions.
New faculty book: Nature's Matrix
Professors John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto have published a groundbreaking book, "Natures Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty." They propose a radically new approach to the conservation of biodiversity based on recent advances in the science of ecology as well as political realities, particularly in the world's tropical regions.
According to the book's preface, their analysis stems from the current (and probably future) nature of tropical landscapes as being mainly fragments of natural habitat surrounded by a 'sea' of agriculture. Recent ecological theory shows that the nature of those fragments is not nearly as important for conservation as the nature of the matrix of agriculture and other management systems that surround them. The only way to promote such high-quality matrices is to work with rural social movements, the authors state.
"We wrote this book partly to inform the conservation community that recent advances in basic ecological theory force their activities into a more expansive framework, especially with regard to the structure of tropical agriculture," said Vandermeer. "Especially in a world where a billion people go hungry every night despite overproduction of almost all agricultural commodities, we want people to realize that the conservation of biodiversity and the struggle for food sovereignty are two sides of the same coin."
Vandermeer is the Asa Gray University Professor in EEB, Perfecto is the Charles Willis Pack Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and their co-author Angus Wright is emeritus professor of environmental studies at California State University Sacramento. For further information and to order the book, visit Earthscan, publishing for a sustainable future.
Brower Fellowship awarded
Jess Middlemis Maher is the 2009 recipient of the Helen Olsen Brower Memorial Fellowship in Environmental Studies from EEB, which is awarded annually to a graduate student working in applied sciences for the conservation of natural resources. The prestigious award provides one semester of fellowship funding for stipend, tuition and benefits. Sally and Caspar Offutt, Jr., endowed this fellowship in tribute to Sally's mother who graduated in biology in 1917 from the University of Michigan. Brower led a vigorous public life touching on wide-ranging endeavors from politics to war relief. She invariably found her greatest satisfaction with projects involving the outdoors.
Maher's research program measures the effects of the environment on individual health and fitness in amphibians, especially the effects of early experiences on later-life behavior and physiology. The 2008 Brower fellows were: Emily Farrer, Aley Joseph, Amanda Zellmer and Maher (this is the second consecutive year Maher has been selected).
Kurdziel's bright IDEA
Dr. Jo Kurdziel, EEB lecturer and assistant research scientist, has been awarded a $100,000 grant for three years from U-M's IDEA Institute for her project &Injecting assessment in the introductory biology curriculum to improve student learning and teaching.& Kurdziel is developing a collaborative team to assess, and ultimately improve, the new introductory biology sequence as part of this collaboration between the natural science departments in U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and the U-M School of Education.
IDEA stands for the Instructional Development and Educational Assessment Institute. Their mandate is to improve and advance, through research and practice, undergraduate science teaching and learning at all levels, including teacher training and collecting data on student learning. The team will have preliminary results by the end of winter term 2011.
Best poster prize
EEB graduate student Andres Baeza won the Lotka-Volterra award for best poster presentation at the 2009 Ecological Society of America meeting. The poster was titled "On the emergence of conservation behavior in a land-use model with ecosystem services." He collaborated with Professor Mercedes Pascual and Andy Dobson, a professor of EEB at Princeton. The Theoretical Ecology Section of the ESA awarded the tenth annual Alfred J. Lotka and Vito Volterra prize on the basis of merit, originality, and clarity of presentation. Congratulations!
Being a standout has its benefits, study shows
Research published in Evolution by EEB graduate student Michael Sheehan and Professor Elizabeth Tibbetts was recently featured on the U-M home page. It was on the U-M News Service home page.
New species' numbers rise with rising mountains
"The major times of (species) diversification directly coincide with times of large tectonic events," said Professor Catherine Badgley, who presented the findings in September 2009 at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Bristol, UK.
Read more in Naturenews.
EEB welcomes new lecturer
Dr. Laura Eidietis joins EEB from Hunter College of the City University of New York where she was an assistant professor of science education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching. Eidietis is coordinating BIO 171 (Intro to Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and teaching the honors discussion sessions; teaching BIO 108 (Animal Diversity for non-majors); and teaching and coordinating graduate student instructor (GSI) training.
Eidietis received her Ph.D. in biology from U-M. Afterward, she spent two years as faculty in the Biology Department at Eastern Michigan University teaching mostly biology education classes. Her research interests in biology involve using biomechanical tools to help understand the migrations of lamprey. Specifically, she has recently looked at Pacific lamprey making their way up manmade ramps. She enjoys considering the interaction between the physics of the environment and animals.
In science education, she looks at factors that influence the inclusion of topics and activities in classrooms, specifically looking at teacher/instructor decision making. Most recently, this has focused on ocean and Great Lakes education.
"My husband and I are thrilled to be back in Ann Arbor -- he did his MBA at UM," the Michigan native said, "and I'm thrilled to be back home. We are happily battling invasive species in our back yard and working on growing our family a little in the near future."
In memoriam – botany legend
Professor Emeritus Rogers McVaugh was an internationally renowned authority on a wide variety of plants in the families Compositae, Myrtaceae, Campanulaceae, woody Rosaceae, and the flora of Mexico, as well as botanical history and nomenclature. He died Sept. 24, 2009 at the age of 100.
"Rog," as he was known to his friends, began his association with the University of Michigan in the Department of Botany and Herbarium in 1946, following appointments at the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was curator of vascular plants from 1946 - 1979, the year of his retirement, and director of the Herbarium from 1972 - 1975. He was named Harley Harris Bartlett Professor of Botany in 1974. His focus on the flora of western Mexico and collaboration with his former student, William R. Anderson, culminated in the acclaimed series "Flora Novo-Galiciana."
Owing to McVaugh's prodigious field work and expertise in neotropical families, which brought ceaseless gifts for determination from other collectors, the U-M Herbarium is a treasure trove for plants of Mexico and the families that were his specialty.
McVaugh received numerous honors for his outstanding scholarly contributions and remained active in research throughout his retirement. He was appointed research professor of botany at the University of North Carolina in 1980 and adjunct research scientist at the Hunt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. His relatives and friends gathered for a joyous celebration of his 100th birthday in June. He was born May 30, 1909. He certainly left his mark at U-M and far beyond. Read more on the U-M Herbarium Web site.
The Michigan Society of Fellows, under the auspices of the Rackham Graduate School, was established in 1970 with endowment grants from the Ford Foundation and the Horace H. and Mary Rackham Funds. Each year the society selects four outstanding applicants for appointment to three-year fellowships in the social, physical, and life sciences, and in the professional schools. In 2007, the Mellon Foundation awarded a grant to add four Mellon Fellows annually in the humanities, expanding the number of fellowships awarded each year from four to eight. These diverse young scholars share their creativity and excellence through interaction and mutual enlightenment, making a truly unique contribution to the quality of scholarly life at U-M.
EEB is fortunate to currently have two Michigan Fellows. Manja Holland joined EEB in 2008 after earning her Ph.D. with distinction from Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She researches the ecology of disease with a particular focus on environmental contexts that promote disease emergence as well as collateral effects on communities. Her previous research focused on patterns of macroparasite infection and disease in amphibian hosts in the human-dominated landscapes of the northeastern U.S.
Holland is also interested in the broader role of parasites in structuring ecological communities and food webs and maintaining biodiversity. Holland taught Disease Ecology in 2008-2009 with Professor Johannes Foufopoulos.
Evan Economo, EEB's new Michigan Fellow, hails from the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and behavior. His research interests are in three interrelated areas: biodiversity theory, which seeks to mechanistically explain patterns of diversity across geographic space and across the tree of life; the ecology, evolution, and biodiversity of ants in the Pacific islands, a spatially complex network of communities; and biological scaling, particularly the consequences of allometric scaling of metabolism for populations and ecosystems.
Professor and Chair Deborah Goldberg is currently a Senior Michigan Fellow. "It saves my sanity," she says of her experience, "and reminds me why I wanted to be at a university."
Historically, one to two Michigan Scholars have been appointed to EEB at a time. The most recent past scholars (and current assistant professorship locations) include: Mike Benard (Case Western, Cleveland, Ohio), Paul Fine (University of California at Berkeley), and Chuck Davis (Harvard). Application information is on the Michigan Society of Fellows Web site.
A day in the life of a graduate
EEB has launched a new Web page to give prospective students (and other interested parties) a glimpse of what it's like to walk in a grad's shoes.
EEB graduate RSS feeds launched
Stay informed about graduate funding, events and jobs. These RSS feeds replace the weekly graduate newsletter that used to be e-mailed to you.
Faculty search underway
The University of Michigan invites applications for two tenure-track assistant professor positions in microbial ecology: one in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; and one in the Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health.
Welcome Pej Rohani
We are pleased to announce the arrival of Professor Pej Rohani to EEB. He joins us from the Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia. His main research interests are theoretical ecology, infectious disease ecology and evolution, population dynamics, mathematical and computational modeling, and metapopulations. Rohani is also a professor in the Center for the Study of Complex Systems. He will teach cross-listed courses on infectious disease ecology and modeling infectious diseases.
He is currently researching the epidemiology of whooping cough, the transmission dynamics of the avian influenza virus in North American wild bird populations (for which he just received an NSF grant), the Indian meal moth, Plodia interpunctella (a stored product pest) and its competitor, the Almond moth, Ephestia cautella and their natural wasp enemies. Rohani is collaborating with Professor Aaron King, has written articles with Professor Mercedes Pascual and looks forward to collaborations with several others in EEB and epidemiology. "There are so many cool people around – it's very exciting," he said.
Rohani is an advisor to the World Health Organization helping to improve estimates of mortality and morbidity for measles and whooping cough. He has advised their QUIVER (Quantitative Immunization and Vaccines Related Research) committee for the past couple of years.
Wright wins best poster (again)
EEB graduate student Jeremy Wright received the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists' Storer Award in Ichthyology for his poster, "Aposematism and Müllerian mimicry in a group of Lake Tanganyikan catfishes." He presented his poster at the society's annual meeting in Portland, Ore. in July 2009 and captured the prize for a second consecutive year.
The annual Storer Award goes to the best single-author student poster presented at the meeting. Posters are judged on innovation, originality, and scientific significance, as well as quality of presentation and visual aids or graphic design. Wright's poster is display in the Fish Division of the Museum of Zoology. Bravo!
In memoriam – trailblazing scientist
Professor Emeritus Lawrence B. Slobodkin, who taught at U-M from 1953-1968 and was a key figure in the development of ecology and evolutionary biology as a modern science, died Saturday, September 12 at age 81.
He is being remembered as a trailblazing scientist, a quirky and inspirational professor, and an admired friend known for his quick humor and deep engagement with the arts, Jewish studies, and progressive politics. He was the founding chairman of Stony Brook University's Department of Ecology and Evolution.
According to Douglas Futuyma, distinguished professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook who studied under Slobodkin at the U-M, he helped advance the study of ecosystems from a descriptive science to one based on conceptual questions and hypotheses within a more mathematical framework. He furthered the ideas of the field's seminal thinker, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, under whom he'd studied at Yale before getting his doctorate in 1951 at the age of 23.
With two colleagues at U-M, he wrote a three-page paper in 1960 that "must be the most frequently cited paper in the entire field of ecology to this day," said Futuyma. Newsday press release.
Zak awarded Collegiate Professorship
Don Zak has been named Burton V. Barnes Collegiate Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, effective September 1, 2009. He is also a professor in EEB and an adjunct professor in Geological Sciences.
Barnes, a U-M professor emeritus, is a world-renowned forest ecologist who worked to understand the biology and ecology of forests over a career that spans multiple decades. "I've always believed that ecological ideas should be tested through field research and experimentation, and that, in turn, should be integrated into a teaching program. I've been inspired by Burt's ability to do that seamlessly – it's something I aspired to achieve."
During his undergraduate education, Zak took an ecology course that required Barnes' book "Forest Ecology" and remembers thinking, "this is something I want to do." Zak co-authored the latest edition of the text, which he uses in his class Soil Ecology. He teaches the course this semester, and spends two afternoons in the field teaching students. Zak recently received the highest award given by the Soil Science Society of America for work in soil biology and biochemistry, the Francis Clark Distinguished Lectureship; he will deliver the lecture on November 3, 2009 during the Society's Annual Meeting. He also received the 2006-2007 Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award from SNRE students.
Zak received his doctoral degree from Michigan State University in 1987, and completed a postdoc at the University of Minnesota. His work centers on understanding how composition is linked to function in soil microbial communities and how those links influence the flow of energy and cycling of elements in terrestrial ecosystems. There are thousands of microorganisms in any handful of soil that we know nothing about, he said. His research spans the gamut from molecular biology, working on gene transcription, to understanding how that can influence ecosystem processes. His work also investigates how ecological theory can be applied to microbial communities.
The professorship, which is for a five-year renewable term, is one of the highest honors the college and the university can bestow upon an eminent member of the faculty.
Google PageRank inspired coextinction research
Former postdoctoral fellow Stefano Allesina and Professor Mercedes Pascual created an algorithm inspired by Google's PageRank, which rates Web pages based on pages that link to them. They applied their algorithm to a different kind of web – food webs. Their research was published in the online journal PLoS Computational Biology in September 2009.
The algorithm uses the links between species in a food web, which describes the complex eating relationships between species, to determine the relative importance of various species. Their research forms the basis for a more comprehensive treatment of extinction risk in ecosystems. Allesina just moved from a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Center for Ecological Synthesis, University of California at Santa Barbara, to an assistant professorship at the University of Chicago. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral fellow in Pascual's lab. See New York Times and BBC articles.
Kling named Collegiate Professor
George W. Kling has been awarded the Robert G. Wetzel Collegiate Professorship by the U-M Board of Regents effective September 1, 2009.
Wetzel was a professor of biology at the University of Michigan from 1986 to 1990. According to Kling, he is probably the most well-known aquatic ecologist in the world. He published 23 books and over 400 journal articles. His textbook, "Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems" is the classic treatise in the field.
"One special trait of Bob's that I particularly admired was his commitment to supporting and encouraging young scientists in developing countries," said Professor Kling. "Bob loved this university, and even after he left he visited many times in part because he had family in the area, but mainly to soak up the place and renew his feeling of being a part of our intellectual community. Much to our loss, Bob passed away in April 2005. In 1990, when I came to the university just one year after he left, I inherited his office and laboratory – I still think of Bob often as I sit at his old desk."
Kling received his doctorate degree from Duke University in 1988 and was a postdoctoral fellow at The Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole from 1988-1991. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997. He received a National Academy of Sciences Young Investigator Award (1993), a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship (1995), the United Nations Sasakawa Award (2001) for his work on disaster reduction in tropical lakes, and the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Ruth Patrick Award (2007) for applied work in aquatic sciences (2007). He joined U-M in 1991 as a research scientist with the Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences and was a professor of biology for 12 years before he became professor of EEB. He is the associate chair of EEB's graduate program. Kling studies ecosystem ecology and aquatic biogeochemistry.
The professorship, which is for a five-year renewable term, is one of the highest honors the college and the university can bestow upon an eminent member of the faculty.
Vandermeer appointed University Professor
John H. Vandermeer has been appointed as the Asa Gray Distinguished University Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology by the U-M Board of Regents effective September 1, 2009. Appointment to a Distinguished University Professorship is one of the most coveted honors conferred by the university upon a member of its faculty.
Asa Gray (1810-1888) is considered the most important American botanist of the 19th century. He was instrumental in unifying the taxonomic knowledge of the plants of the North American continent. He was appointed a professor at the University of Michigan in 1838, but resigned before visiting Ann Arbor and served at Harvard from 1842 to 1873. Gray knew and corresponded with Charles Darwin and was one of Darwin's supporters, not only in support of the theory of evolution in the U.S., but also in solidarity with Darwin's extensive connections with and support for the abolitionist movement.
Professor Vandermeer received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1969. After a postdoctoral position at the University of Chicago he was professor of biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook before returning to U-M. He has made significant contributions in his three major areas of research: theoretical ecology, tropical rain forest ecology, and agricultural ecology. He is unique in his ability to integrate between them, particularly in his central role in the development of the rigorous ecological theory that now underpins the understanding of complex agroecosystems and the inevitability of surprise in complex ecosystems more generally. His most recent work has shed light on the role of complex systems and spatial dynamics in ecosystem function, emphasizing the coffee agroecosystem as a model system.
The appointment recognizes Vandermeer's extensive and outstanding scholarly achievements, his commitment to excellence in education for his students, and his extensive contributions to the University of Michigan and far beyond.
EEB Professor and Chair Deborah E. Goldberg spent July 3 - 15 cruising Norway's fjords and Russia's White Sea as the U-M Alumni Association representative. She presented lectures, enjoyed spectacular scenery, and learned a huge amount about the cultural and political history of the region. After the cruise, she took the opportunity to conduct field work in the mountains of central Norway as part of a new collaborative project on climate change and alpine vegetation.
Water quality improves after lawn fertilizer ban, study shows
Professor John Lehman and his students provide the first evidence of the effectiveness of lawn fertilizer bans in reducing phosphorous in the Huron River and two downstream lakes. Their research, published online Aug. 14, in the journal Lake and Reservoir Management shows that phosphorus levels in the Huron River dropped an average of 28 percent after Ann Arbor adopted an ordinance in 2006 that curtailed the use of phosphorus on lawns.
In an effort to keep lakes and streams clean, municipalities around the country are banning or restricting the use of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers, which can kill fish and cause smelly algae blooms and other problems when the phosphorus washes out of the soil and into waterways. Phosphorus is naturally plentiful in southeast Michigan soils, so fertilizing established lawns with the nutrient is generally unnecessary.
The study already has attracted the attention of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), which invited Lehman to present the study results at a meeting earlier this year, and may well generate interest beyond Michigan's borders. Students Douglas Bell and Kahli McDonald were co-authors. The research was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the city of Ann Arbor.
Berry reappointed Herbarium director
Professor Paul E. Berry has been reappointed as director of the University Herbarium for a three-year term from July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2012.
Berry joined EEB's faculty as professor in January 2006, when he also was appointed director of the Herbarium. His research interests are in plant systematics, and he currently directs a large collaborative project on Euphorbia and Croton, two large genera of the spurge family Euphorbiaceae. He teaches Systematic Botany (EEB 459) in the fall term. In the coming year, the Herbarium will be developing a more functional and useful Web site on Michigan plants, and it will be sponsoring a totally revised printed update of the three-volume "Michigan Flora."
NSF honorable mentions
The National Science Foundation has granted honorary mention status to EEB graduate students John Marino, Leslie McGinnis and Lucy Tran as part of its 2009 Graduate Research Fellowship program. NSF confers honorable mention to meritorious applicants who do not receive fellowship awards. This is a significant academic achievement nationwide. For one year, they receive enhanced access to an open network of high-performance computers, data, tools, people, and high-end experimental facilities around the world to aid their development of novel scientific theories and knowledge.
Marino researches the effects of predation and parasitism on amphibians. Currently, he's focusing on the interactive effects of insect predators and trematode parasites on green frogs. Tran's research uses geometric morphometric techniques (studying the variation and change in the size and shape of skulls) to assess how ecological factors drive speciation in African and Asian colobine monkeys. McGinnis is a fall 2009 incoming doctoral student.
African lake's gases threaten millions, reports journal Nature
Trapped methane and carbon dioxide in Central Africa's Lake Kivu could be set loose by a quake or landslide, according to Professor George Kling. The carbon dioxide and methane entered the lake through volcanic vents. The gases are trapped in layers 80 meters below the lake's surface by intense water pressure.
A similar situation on Lake Nyos in the Cameroon wreaked havoc in 1986 when a huge cloud of carbon dioxide bubbled up from the lake as a probable result of a landslide. Carbon dioxide is denser than air so the cloud traveled along the ground at 45 mph and suffocated everything in its path, including 1,700 people.
Lake Kivu is more than 3,000 times the size of Nyos and contains more than 350 times as much gas. The region is a center of volcanic activity. Most worrisome is that two million people live on the lake's banks.
Energy companies are beginning to tap the lake's methane to bring power to the region. Some researchers say this could reduce the risk of a gas eruption, while others worry that this activity could disrupt the lake's equilibrium, making the situation more dangerous.
"It could be one of the great remediation projects of all time: mitigating a lethal natural hazard and at the same time bringing power to people who desperately need it," said Kling. "If it is done right." Read more: Nature | Guardian.co.uk
Gene and species trees research funded
A grant on "Estimating species trees with population genetic approaches: working towards a new phylogenetic paradigm for 21st century phylogenetics" for $356,000 has been awarded by the National Science Foundation to Dr. L. Lacey Knowles. She is collaborating with Dr. Laura Kubatko, Ohio State University.
New approaches for estimating species trees represent a fundamental shift in how gene trees are used and interpreted. Knowles' research combines empirical investigation, simulation, and theory to verify that the intriguing promises from the theoretical realm can be realized in practice when the messiness of real data is taken into account in this new area of phylogenetics. The grant begins September 2009 for two years.
EEB's very own artist
John Megahan is now supporting the graphic arts needs of EEB including publications, research and the Web in collaboration with faculty, students and staff. His primary appointment is with the Museum of Zoology.
"Being the Museum of Zoology illustrator over the last 13 years has given me the opportunity to work on many fascinating projects with an amazing group of people," he said. "In the coming years I look forward to expanding my relationship with EEB faculty, students and staff."
Megahan studied biology and art over the years and in the early 1990s he decided to combine interests as a biological illustrator. He has worked on salmon in eastern Oregon, salamanders in western Oregon, sea lions and Marbled Murrelets (a small seabird) on the Oregon coast, and marine invertebrates in Oregon and Alaska. He has taught several classes as an adjunct lecturer at the U-M School of Art. A professional freelance artist, Megahan recently illustrated a children's book for Sleeping Bear Press called "W is for Waves – An Ocean Alphabet" and the Pierre Paul Art Gallery showcased his paintings. He is a member of the Artists for Conservation, a non-profit, international organization dedicated to the celebration and preservation of the natural world. We're lucky to have his skills! View his Fine Art & Illustration Web site. Painting by John Megahan, "Queen's View."
Mastodon bone unearthed in Portland, Mich.
Baskerville in Ann Arbor News
Read the feature story on EEB graduate student Ed Baskerville in the July 12, 2009 Ann Arbor News. He was the impetus behind the Classical Revolution Ann Arbor, which takes classical music to the public at no charge. (upcoming performance) Photo: The Ann Arbor News, Alan Warren. Read the article.
Hunter is 100 percent EEB
Professor Mark Hunter has a 100 percent EEB appointment as of July 1, 2009. "I'm looking forward to maintaining strong research ties with my SNRE colleagues while taking the opportunity to explore new collaborations with the faculty in EEB," Hunter said.
He will divide his teaching time between Introductory Biology (BIO 171) and a graduate course in plant-animal interactions. His research explores the role of plant quality in the population and community ecology of herbivores. It includes theoretical work on population dynamics and community assembly, and applied work on biological responses to environmental change. Hunter is also interested in linking together population processes with ecosystem dynamics.
Northernmost Michael Jackson remembrance above 68th parallel
EEB graduate student Sarah Barbrow and other Arctic researchers took a break from science to boogie down to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in the northernmost tribute to the pop icon. Their re-creation of the famous music video took place at the Toolik Field Station in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.
The undertaking was a dual challenge: the scientists do not normally move in eight count steps (but they learned) and the visiting journalists had to cover a "non-climate change" news story. Melissa Gervais, a researcher and trained dancer from the University of Californa at Santa Barbara, taught them the dance during evenings after long days in the field.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger was impressed because "they only had three rehearsals" and "Arctic researchers are not generally known for their rhythm." Jen Kostrzewski, a technician in Professor George Kling's lab, was the brains behind the scenes due to a sprained ankle. She is the senior research assistant with Kling for the land-water interactions component of the Arctic Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site at Toolik Field Station. Her first cassette tape was -- you guessed it -- "Thriller."
Nominate your exceptional student: GESI Doctoral Fellows Program
The Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute is now accepting applications for its 2010 Doctoral Fellows Program, which offers $50,000 over two years to exceptional Ph.D. students conducting interdisciplinary doctoral research related to sustainability.
Six doctoral candidates are accepted into the fellowship program each year. The deadline to apply for the 2010 academic year is October 15, 2009. If you have a student in mind for this respected program and funding opportunity, read about the application and nomination process. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact the institute by email or phone (734) 615-8230.
New photographer joins EEB team
Dale Austin, media consultant and photographer, whose primary appointment is in Geological Sciences, has signed on with EEB to assist with photography, research poster printing, and other departmental graphic needs. "Working in two departments lets me experience different approaches to our work at the U-M," said Austin.
When asked for a quote, his first inclination was "buy low, sell high," but on reconsideration, Austin offers the following: "I enjoy being able to carry on the work of my late predecessor and good friend – one of the first people I met at U-M 25 years ago" – David Bay.
Austin has 25 years experience in the field with U-M. He is a volunteer instructor for the American Red Cross, Washtenaw Chapter. He has participated in several disaster relief operations over the years, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as well as other floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. Sounds like a good guy to have on the EEB team!
Next stop for Connallon: Cornell
Tim Connallon will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University in the lab of Andy Clark, a professor of population genetics, in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.
Ruiz Moreno heading to Cornell
Diego Ruiz Moreno will begin a postdoctoral fellowship in July 2009 in the EEB department at Cornell University. Ruiz Moreno will be developing spatial and descriptive models of disease dynamics based on current datasets available for three parallel systems: sea corals, amphibian populations, and mosquito borne-diseases. He will collaborate with climate specialists and biologists to create a climate-based forecasting tool for corals and work with other members of Cornell's ecology and evolution of infectious disease community including Drs. Drew Harvell, Kelly Zamudio and Laura Harrington.
The position is primarily funded by a new award from the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future for research on climate effect on disease dynamics in the three systems. Additional funding is provided by an award from the Global Environmental Fund for Coral Reef Sustainability.
EEB welcomes senior secretary
A warm welcome to Sonja Botes, senior secretary, who officially began her position in February 2009, after serving temporarily in that role since September 2008. Botes is the first friendly face visitors to EEB see at the front desk. She provides secretarial support to the EEB chair, faculty and administrator as well as staff support for faculty recruitment, the Thursday Seminar Series and other special events. Botes is responsible for general office assistance, including updating the departmental directory. She is a recent graduate of Walsh College where she earned her bachelor's of business administration degree in marketing.
"I enjoy working here because of the people," said Botes, who is originally from the Providence of Guateng, South Africa. "The faculty, staff and students make this department one of the best places I've worked."
Chatfield lands Tulane postdoc
Matt Chatfield begins his postdoctoral fellowship this summer in the lab of Cori Richards, a U-M EEB alumnus and assistant professor (starting fall 2009) in the EEB department at Tulane University, New Orleans. He'll be looking at the role of sexual selection in driving speciation in poison dart frogs in Panama and/or examining the susceptibility of southeastern frogs to the pathogenic chytrid fungus, which is responsible for mass die-offs in many amphibian species.
Wittkopp wins 2010 Russel Award
Professor Patricia Wittkopp will receive the most prestigious honor U-M awards junior faculty, recognizing exceptional scholarship and conspicuous ability as a teacher. The award includes a stipend of $1,200 and will be presented at the next Henry Russel Lecture, Tuesday, March 9, 2010.
Wittkopp teaches Biology 305 Genetics and EEB/MCDB 404 Genetics, Development, and Evolution. The Russel Award and Lectureship were established in 1925 with a bequest from Henry Russel of Detroit, who received three degrees from U-M. Recipients of the Henry Russel Lectureship and Award are chosen through a rigorous interdisciplinary review process involving some of UM's most distinguished faculty, including former recipients of the lectureship and award. U-M Record Update.
Food-web theme issue editor
Professor Mercedes Pascual was among four scientists who compiled and edited papers for a theme issue of the June 27 2009 journal Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B titled "Food-web assembly and collapse: mathematical models and implications for conservation." This issue brings together a series of papers that provide mathematical and biological insights into ways that food-webs are assembled as collections of interacting species.
More 2009 promotions
Johannes Foufopoulos and Noah Rosenberg have each been promoted to associate professor with tenure (in their home departments), effective Sept. 1, 2009. Their dry appointments in EEB began in 2003 and 2005, respectively. Foufopoulos' main appointment is in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment; Rosenberg's is in the Department of Human Genetics. Foufopoulos researches wildlife infectious diseases, conservation biology, herpetology and ornithology. Rosenberg studies mathematical models in genetics and evolution, human population genetics and phylogenetics.
A funny thing happened
The Washington Post ran an Editor's Query asking readers about a time they just couldn't keep a cork in it. They published a reply from Dr. Allen Solomon about an incident at the U-M Biological Station in the 1960s involving Professor Elzada U. Clover, the namesake of Chair Deborah Goldberg's Collegiate Professorship. Solomon was Goldberg's first mentor in graduate school at the University of Arizona, before she gave up pollen for live plants, and a longtime friend. Read the story in the Washington Post.
Google Earth aids discovery of early African mammal fossils
A limestone countertop, a practiced eye and Google Earth all played roles in the discovery of a trove of fossils that may shed light on the origins of African wildlife.
The circuitous and serendipitous story features Professor Philip Gingerich and was recently the subject of a segment on the award-winning television series "Wild Chronicles," on public television stations (Episode 412—Looking Back). Read more: U-M News Service press release.
Bioblitzing the Indiana Dunes
Matt Chatfield was one of about 150 scientists who volunteered their expertise as team leaders to conduct surveys of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for BioBlitz 2009. The 24-hour marathon's goal was to compile species lists for the park for all groups of organisms. Chatfield's target organisms were reptiles and amphibians.
He led three separate groups on surveys in three different regions of the park. The first group was an educational hike where he took a group of seven high school students on a walk through prairie/dune habitat and talked about reptiles, amphibians and how herpetologists study them. He led two groups of volunteers from the general public to survey for the local herpetofauna using aquatic funnel traps, dipnets and visual and acousitc surveys. This was the third BioBlitz conducted jointly by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society.
BioBlitz was founded to help communities learn about the biological diversity of local parks and to better understand how to protect them.
Scientists back legislation to curb greenhouse gases
Professor Knute Nadelhoffer, director of the U-M Biological Station, said Michigan industries including Detroit automakers and the UAW support legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions in a May 19, 2009 Detroit Free Press article. Nadelhoffer is one of 178 Michigan scientists who signed a letter supporting the legislation (65 U-M scientists added their names, over half are from EEB). Other primary authors of the letter were Professors George Kling and Don Scavia, SNRE. Reported in: U-M Record Update, The State News.
Gingerich's fossil find on the History Channel
Professor Philip Gingerich was part of an international scientific team that recently announced discovery of a remarkably complete, well-preserved 47-million-year old fossil of an extinct early primate.
Known as Ida (pronounced "ee-da"), the fossil is thought to represent an early member of the lineage that gave rise to monkeys, apes and humans. Ida may help resolve a debate over which group of early primates gave rise to humans.
The find is described in a paper published online May 19 in the open-access journal PLoS ONE and also is the subject of a History Channel film, THE LINK, scheduled to premiere Monday, May 25 at 9 p.m., and a book, The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor (Little, Brown). U-M News Service press release.
2009 faculty promotions
Paul Dunlap and Jianzhi Zhang have both been promoted to professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, with tenure, effective Sept. 1, 2009. They have been on the EEB faculty since 2001. Dunlap researches microbial symbiosis and phylogenetics. Zhang studies molecular and genomic evolution. Congratulations!
Maher wins NSF DDIG
Jessica Middlemis Maher will receive a doctoral dissertation improvement grant from the National Science Foundation for her project "Local adaptation of stress physiology in Rana sylvatica."
Middlemis Maher's research focuses on understanding the fitness effects of generating a stress response to predator presence, and subsequent adaptation of that response under different environmental conditions. Chronically &stressing out& is usually costly for an organism, but the circumstances under which that cost would outweigh the benefit are poorly understood.
"I use wood frog tadpoles for this research, since they develop in ponds that contain varying densities of invertebrate predators and they produce stress hormones in response to chemical cues of predator presence," she said. "In addition to gaining a better understanding of the adaptive consequences of responding to stressors, the results from this research will provide some insight into how amphibians in particular are able (or unable) to cope with chronic environmental challenges." Her work is done primarily on the E. S. George Reserve. She receives $8,000 beginning June 1, 2009.
"Better Than Tea Leaves"
The May 2009 HHMI Bulletin features Professor Mercedes Pascual and her mathematical models that consider climate change, disease agents and human immunity. Will her models be a first step toward predicting future outbreaks of malaria or cholera? (read)
Sedio wins Smithsonian fellowship
EEB graduate student Brian Sedio won a $3,800 Smithsonian Short-Term Fellowship through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to cover travel and expenses for field work in Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Sedio uses DNA barcoding to evaluate dietary specialization of beetles collected from 21 species of trees in the genus Psychotria.
Most outstanding EEB publication awarded
Emily Farrer won EEB's Most Outstanding Publication Award for "Litter drives ecosystem and plant community changes in cattail invasion." The paper was published in the journal Ecological Applications, Volume 19, Issue 2 (March 2009) pp. 398-412.
Every year one graduate student paper is selected based on approach of study, scope of findings, and insights into questions of broad scientific interest using multiple lines of evidence. The prize is $500.
NSF dissertation improvement grant award
EEB graduate student Shalene Jha has been awarded a dissertation improvement grant award from the National Science Foundation for her project "Miconia affinis in a tropical forest and coffee landscape mosaic: the population genetics of a buzz-pollinated understory tree."
Jha will be studying pollen dispersal patterns of M. affinis within forest fragments and coffee farms. M. affinis is a buzz-pollinated tree that can only be pollinated by native buzz-pollinating bees, not by Africanized honeybees. Even though Jha graduates this semester, she is able to use the $14,900 award until her research is finished.
Smithsonian fellowship award
The Smithsonian Institution has awarded EEB graduate student Celia Churchill a 2009 Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellowship. Churchill will work with Dr. Ellen Strong of the National Museum of Natural History to identify shared evolved traits (synapomorphies) underlying the ecological transition from sea floor (benthos) to sea surface (neuston) in janthinid snails.
The award is based on the merit of the recipient's research proposal, her abilities and accomplishments, and the extent to which the Smithsonian, through its research staff members and resources, can contribute to the proposed research. Churchill will receive $500 for research expenses, a stipend of $6,750, and the cost of relocation to Washington, D.C. The duration of the fellowship is three months.
Myers wins inaugural teaching innovation prize
Professor Philip Myers is among five faculty members being honored with U-M's first Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize. He receives a $5,000 award honoring the most original approaches to teaching and creativity in the classroom. Myers was selected by a faculty committee from over 100 nominations from students, staff and faculty. Myers is curator of the Museum of Zoology.
Myers founded and continues to manage the Animal Diversity Web, which contains thousands of detailed descriptions of species that have been contributed by students from more than 40 institutions in North America. ADW is one of the most widely used natural history databases worldwide, serving over five million pages to half a million users monthly. The ADW team includes Roger Espinosa, Tricia Jones, Tanya Dewey and George Hammond.
An elaborate content management system dubbed "Mousetrap" provides workspaces for student authors to submit their work to their instructors for review. Each section has a place for free text, along with associated keywords, data fields for quantitative summaries, and bibliographic citations.
Since 2007, a query system called Quaardvark has provided a new way for students to ask questions and download ADW data to explore natural history patterns and test hypotheses. Quaardvark opens up possibilities for active learning in many biological disciplines, including ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation.
An interdisciplinary partnership between the ADW team and Nancy Songer, a professor in the School of Education, has produced the BioKIDS and DeepThink programs. These bring authentic science experiences to fourth- through sixth-grade students in Detroit Public Schools.
Mammoth surprise on the Today Show, April 24
Watch. Rumor has it that Professor Dan Fisher appeared via satellite on Jeopardy April 24, providing answers to a series of questions about Lyuba, the baby mammoth. Listen for Fisher on National Public Radio's Science Friday, May 1. He has already been interviewed by over 25 radio and television programs.
Ice, ice baby
Watch the National Geographic Channel Sunday On Sunday, April 26 at 9 p.m., the National Geographic Channel first aired "Waking the Baby Mammoth," featuring Professor Dan Fisher's research. Check the schedule for additional times and dates. Ice Baby is the cover story in May's National Geographic magazine. U-M News Service press release.
The National Science Foundation has awarded EEB graduate student David Marvin a 2009 Graduate Research Fellowship beginning fall 2009. Marvin will investigate the growth response of north temperate and neotropical lianas (woody climbing vines) to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide under forest gap and non-gap light levels.
The award is based on the recipient's abilities and accomplishments as well as potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. The fellowship provides three years of support including tuition and a $30,000 annual stipend.
Baskerville awarded Department of Energy fellowship
EEB graduate student Ed Baskerville has been awarded a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. The fellowship provides support and guidance to some of the nation's best scientific graduate students and begins fall 2009. The program is administered by the Krell Institute.
Baskerville will receive full tuition and required fees for four years and $33,400 annually. He will be using computational models to investigate the relationship between structure and dynamics in food webs.
Dear President Obama: Food is part of the crisis
Read Professor John Vandermeer's Other Voices column in today's Ann Arbor News. (April 13, 2009)
Miller begins Montana State postdoc
Recent graduate Dr. Zach Miller begins a postdoctoral fellowship in mid-April at Montana State University to research the interactions among plant viruses, a tiny mite-vector, weed species and wheat. He will be working with Drs. Fabian Menalled and Mary Burrows. Miller is excited to be back in the mountains and he reports that his twin daughters are making many new friends. Happy trails!
Jha lands president's postdoc at UC-Berkeley
Shalene Jha has received a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Berkeley campus. Beginning in August 2009, she will study the landscape genetics of bumblebees across agricultural systems in central California. Jha will mentor undergraduates who will assist with her research, with an emphasis on underrepresented students, such as women and minorities. Jha has a great deal of experience mentoring undergraduates from her days in EEB.
Anderson receives TTI grant for student podcasts in evolutionary biology
Students in Dr. Lynn Anderson's course, Biology 107 - Evolution of Life, will develop podcasts about the displays at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History. EEB lecturer Anderson has received a 2009 Teaching with Technology Institute grant of $2500 from the U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching for her project "Podcasting in Evolutionary Biology." She will teach the course winter term 2010.
The podcasts, which will include photos, will be geared to all ages and backgrounds, and will be made available to the public on the Exhibit Museum of Natural History Web site (for virtual visits) and with on-site digital players. Podcast subjects will range from fossil types, rock types and classification tools used to study the evolution of life, as well as the progression of life through time, starting with single-celled organisms through woolly mammoths and other mammals. Cool!
Zak awarded Clark Lectureship
Professor Don Zak has been awarded the Francis Clark Lectureship at the 2009 Soil Science Society of America meeting. It is the highest award given by the society for pioneering work in soil biology and biochemistry. Zak will give a lecture on November 3, 2009 at their international annual meeting November 1 – 5, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Professor Mercedes Pascual is quoted in today's ScienceDaily (April 2, 2009) about the possible connection between infectious disease and climate change.
EEB graduate students Michael Sheehan and Amanda Izzo published science outreach pieces for the Communication Special section for the April issue of Wasp Fancy. Happy APRIL FOOL'S Day! We've got to have some fun. Cover by Sheehan.
Vandermeer wins Imes and Moore Faculty Award
Professor John Vandermeer will receive the 2009 Imes and Moore Faculty Award for exceptional contributions toward recruiting and mentoring graduate students in the natural sciences who come from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds. His service record in this area is longstanding and outstanding, according to Professor Terrence J. McDonald, Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
A certificate of recognition and $3,000 will be presented at the fall meeting of the LSA faculty on October 5, 2009. "It gives me great pleasure to see you selected for this well-deserved honor for which you were nominated by your Chair," the award letter from McDonald states.
"It is great that the University of Michigan recognizes the value of this sort of activity," said Vandermeer. "If universities are to act as agents of social change, which I believe they should, non-traditional recruiting and mentoring should be promoted as an important part of that agency."
EEB students judge SE Mich Science Fair
Sarah Barbrow, Jasmine Crumsey and Liz Wason helped judge the Southeast Michigan Science Fair at Washtenaw Community College on Friday, March 13 for students in grades six – 12.
"I think it's important to remember that future scientists are today's kids," said Crumsey. "Thus, encouragement of scientific thought and practice along with recognition of their hard work is important to ensuring the livelihood of our field in the long term."
"How much ethanol can you produce from a week of kitchen compost waste? How does dendrochronology work? How does a water mill work (and can I build one)? There was a really diverse collection of project topics, with interesting and often very creative ways to 'test' hypotheses about their questions," said Barbrow.
Wason likes seeing the thought process and achievements of the students. "This kind of event is also a good reminder of the bare bones of the scientific method, as well as the importance of conveying scientific results in effective ways that are easy to understand," she said. Wason and Barbrow judged models and collections; Crumsey judged the life science exhibits.
Yap wins Barbour Scholarship
EEB graduate student Sandra Yap has been awarded the Barbour Scholarship for 2009-10 by the Rackham Graduate School. Yap joins a long line of outstanding women who, over the past 94 years, have become leaders in science, education, public service, medicine and other fields in their home countries all over the world. She will receive $16,800, tuition and health insurance for the academic year.
In 1914, the bequest of Levi L. Barbour established a scholarship program at U-M for women of the highest academic and professional caliber from the area formerly known as the Orient (encompassing the region extending from Turkey in the west to Japan and the Philippines in the east) to study modern science, medicine, mathematics and other academic disciplines and professions critical to the development of their native lands. Yap is from the Philippines and after graduation, she plans to join the faculty at the Institute of Biology at the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus (her alma mater).
Le Moine recognized as outstanding research mentor
James Le Moine, research laboratory specialist, has won the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Recognition Award for Outstanding Research Mentorship. The award recognizes contributions to the mentorship and development of future young scientists and researchers. He was nominated by his UROP student, Alexis DeGabriele, and was selected by a student selection committee.
Some excerpts from DeGabriele's letter of nomination include: "Working as a UROP student has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and I know that this is primarily because of my research supervisor, James Le Moine. The unconstrained creativity with which he approaches his work is remarkable. He is never without a conjecture, and he is not afraid of crazy hypotheses. Just being around him inspires me to keep an open mind. He is also hilarious and kind, a combination that makes him very approachable. Jim gave me a chance despite my lack of experience and because of this I plan to major in ecology and evolutionary biology."
The recognition and $1000 will be presented at the public UROP Research Appreciation Breakfast and Award Ceremony on Wednesday, April 15 from 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. in the Great Lakes Room in Palmer Commons.
Hoorah for Brown and Jha!
Congratulations to EEB graduate students Joseph Brown and Shalene Jha on their Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship Awards. The outstanding students will receive $27,000 over three terms, candidacy tuition and registration fees for fall and winter as well as GradCare health and dental insurance coverage for 2009-10. Brown studies avian phylogenetics and systematics. Jha researches pollination biology and tropical ecology.
Happy 200th birthday to Darwin
Professor L. Lacey Knowles appears in a video singing happy birthday to the father of evolution. The video was posted by the Society for the Study of Evolution; Knowles is a council member. Look for Knowles at the very beginning.
Outstanding GSI award for Bebej
EEB's Ryan Bebej has won an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award for 2008-2009 from the Rackham Graduate School. The awards committee looks for qualities such as exceptional ability and creativity as teachers and demonstrated excellence as mentors and advisors. He was one of 20 chosen from an especially impressive group of nominees representing schools and colleges across U-M. The public awards ceremony will be held Friday, April 17, at 4 p.m. in the Rackham Amphitheatre, followed by a reception. He will receive a certificate of award and $1,000.
NCID funds part of EEB's recruitment efforts
EEB graduate students Shalene Jha, Brian Sedio, and SNRE grad Jose Gonzalez visited the University of Puerto Rico in February 2009 to present a research symposium and to take part in a panel to answer questions about graduate school and U-M. The segment of EEB's recruiting program that seeks to increase the diversity of the graduate student body is funded by a grant from the National Center for Institutional Diversity. The long-term goal is to ensure that the diversity of graduate students in the discipline, and ultimately of the professoriate, matches that of society at large. The $30,000 grant is for one-and-a-half years, and began in 2007.
As part of the program, select students from partner universities visit UM's campus to meet faculty and students in EEB and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment and participate in a field ecology course for the weekend. Partners for 2008 were: University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras and Mayaguez Campuses, Morehouse College and Howard University. So far, 12 students have visited campus through the program.
EEB and SNRE students began visiting partner universities as part of the NCID program in 2007. Jha and EEB grad Mike Sheehan traveled to Morehouse College in 2008 where many Spelman College students were in attendance. EEB grads Sarah Cobey, Jahi Chappell and SNRE grad Solomon David visited Howard University in 2007.
Professor John Vandermeer, chair of EEB's Diversity Committee, presented a seminar and touted graduate school in EEB at Howard University in 2008. He travels to Morehouse College in April 2009. Future plans include expanding the program to include Tuskegee University.
Frontiers Master's Program team wins diversity award
Congratulations to the Frontiers Master's Program team for winning the inaugural University of Michigan Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award. The team includes: Professor Deborah Goldberg; Professor Mark Hunter, program chair; Professor Beverly Rathcke, associate chair for graduate studies (at the time); Christy Byks-Jazayeri, graduate coordinator assistant and recruiter. The award was created to honor those who stand out by demonstrating extraordinary commitment and dedication to diversity at U-M. An event is planned for May 5 to recognize the winners. The prize is $2,500 for professional development activities.
BART fellows exhibit at AAAS annual meeting
EEB graduate students Jasmine Crumsey, Rachel Vannette, and Liz Wason traveled to Chicago for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February. They displayed their Biosphere-Atmosphere Research and Training work to illustrate the interactions between biospheric and atmospheric processes.
The BART Fellows were invited by the National Science Foundation to be part of their exhibit. They talked with scientists, policymakers, the press, and families with children.
"We love the photographs but we really love the photographer"
David J. Bay was the self-described "photographer-at-large" for EEB and its predecessor departments for 34 years. He touched the lives of hundreds of faculty, students and staff with his humor, good nature and expertise. He passed away on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009 (born May 17,1948). He will be greatly missed.
University Record obituary. Ann Arbor News obituary. For information on making a charitable donation in Bay's name, please contact Sonja Botes or stop by 2019 Kraus Natural Sciences (administrative office) for a list. Read more on our alumni giving page. Headline quote attribution: Allen Bay, Dave's brother.
ID Day: mysteries solved
See the Ann Arbor News article and slide show of the 12th annual ID Day at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History, Sunday, Feb. 15, featuring many EEB faculty and students.
Zhang awarded $1.2 million NIH grant
Professor Jianzhi Zhang has been funded by a four-year National Institutes of Health grant entitled "Functional genomic approaches to duplicate gene evolution." "The grant will allow us to tackle a series of questions regarding functional divergence of duplicate genes, by computational and experimental studies of the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and its relatives" said Zhang. Upon gene duplication, two gene copies are identical in function. Functional divergence describes the way they gradually differ in function through the accumulation of mutations in evolution.
Oneal begins Duke postdoc
Former EEB Ph.D. student Dr. Elen Oneal has accepted and started a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University. She will be working with Dr. John Willis on the evolutionary genetics of adaptation in natural populations.
Knowles awarded UC Berkeley visiting professorship award
Professor L. Lacey Knowles was awarded a Visiting Miller Research Professorship Award from the University of California, Berkeley, for fall 2009. Her project is titled "Exploring biodiversity dynamics: benefits and challenges of genetic approaches."
Genetic approaches can not only provide great insights into the processes generating patterns of diversity, but also have immediate consequences for preserving that diversity, according to Knowles. This includes biological systems that capture our imaginations and are often at the greatest risk of loss – recently originated species and evolutionary radiations. Yet, these are also the very situations where a disconnect between the way in which genetic data are interpreted and the actual underlying evolutionary processes can result in (i) a distorted picture of the history of speciation, and (ii) mis-specified targets of conservation concern. The proposed research addresses two areas in which this gap between the inferences we make with our genetic analyses and the biological realities we aim to capture may be bridged by recent advances – the identification of species boundaries and the direct estimation of species trees.
The focus of the work (i.e., population genetic approaches for estimating species boundaries and relationships) by its very nature also serves as a conduit for exchange between the traditionally separate fields of genetics and systematics. "I will be working with both empiricists and population genetics theoreticians across departments and museums, where the interdisciplinary strengths of the proposed research can be fully realized," she said.
Pascual named Collegiate Professor
Mercedes Pascual has been named the Rosemary Grant Collegiate Professor by the U-M Board of Regents. LSA Collegiate Professorships are chosen based on outstanding scholarship, teaching and service for five-year renewable terms.
Rosemary Grant is a professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University. She and her husband, Peter, spent 30 years conducting field work in the Galápagos Islands where they have been tracking changes in the native populations of finch species. The morphological and behavioral changes they have observed among the finches in response to seasonal fluctuations in the local climate and ecology have allowed them to make conclusive studies of how natural selection works on populations within an observable time frame. This has been one of the most significant contributions to the field of evolutionary biology. Their lives and finch research were featured in the Pulitzer Prize winning book, "The Beak of the Finch" by Jonathan Weiner. They have won many awards for their work including, in 2008, the Darwin-Wallace Award, which is bestowed every 50 years by the Linnean Society of London.
"I admire Rosemary Grant's work at the interface of evolution and ecology, for the deep biological insights and the long-term perspective it has provided on an ecological system," said Professor Pascual. Pascual appreciates the way, as a woman scientist, Grant has combined her work with the rest of her life, spending several months a year in the Galápagos Islands. "I wish I could spend several months a year in a place like the Galápagos," she added, and on the research front "and get to know a biological system this well over time."
EEB graduate student Mike Sheehan's up close and personal photos of wasp faces are featured in the January 2009 issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine. The photos accompany an article about his research with Professor Elizabeth Tibbetts, which was previously featured on the EEB Web site. Sheehan was paid 80 pounds for his photographs, which is about $115.
NSF grant: The spider and the web
Professor Mercedes Pascual, and Stefano Allesina, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, were awarded a $636,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for their project "The spider and the web: inference in ecological networks."
Their research, which blends ideas from ecology, mathematics and computer science, will seek to improve existing models and develop new ones for the structure of food webs, the network of interactions between consumers and their resources in an ecosystem. They will also investigate the biological basis of structure and its relationship to dynamical properties such as species persistence and robustness to species losses. Allesina is a former postdoc of Pascual's.
Detroit students attend BioKIDS
Sixth graders from the Detroit Public Schools visited campus for the first BioKIDS Science Convention. Many EEB faculty and students attended to discuss ecosystems, biodiversity and ecology in the Great Lakes region with the students.
Participants from EEB included the following graduate students: Jasmine Crumsey, Rachel Hessler, Aley Joseph, John Marino, Jessica Middlemis Maher, Elizabeth Wason, and these professors: Ines Ibañez, Mark Hunter, Jo Kurdziel, Philip Myers and Knute Nadelhoffer.
Graham Fellowship awarded
EEB graduate student Doug Jackson has received a 2009 Graham Graduate Fellowship of $50,000 from the U-M Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute to support his research topic "High-biodiversity agriculture for the future: Using the sciences of ecology and complexity to understand natural pest control in agro-ecosystems." He will be continuing his research in Chiapas, Mexico with Professors John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto.
Now in its fourth year, the Graham Graduate Fellowship Program provides financial support and academic collaboration for the best and brightest U-M doctoral candidates pursuing interdisciplinary research concentrating on environmental sustainability.
ESA best poster award
EEB graduate student Clay Cressler won best poster from the Theoretical Ecology section of the Ecological Society of America. The Alfred J. Lotka prize was given to a student who presented on original research in theoretical ecology at the national meetings.
The poster was titled "The foraging-predation risk tradeoff governs evolution of inducible defenses." The prize is $150 and a free journal subscription from Elsevier. Cressler is the president of Graduate Researchers in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (GREEBs) for 2008-2009.
Evolutionary gem of a paper!
The journal Nature has just released a list of incontrovertible evidence for evolution by natural selection entitled "15 evolutionary gems." One of Professor Patricia Wittkopp's papers from graduate school is listed as number 13 among Nature's collection. Under the category, gems from molecular processes, it is titled "Microevolution meets macroevolution." Papers were selected from those published in Nature over the past 10 years.