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Submit stunning snaps: EEB photo contest 2012
Monday, November 05, 2012
The EEB Honorary “Photographer at Large” Contest is back and it’s open to U-M EEB faculty, students, postdocs and staff. Submit your best photos (up to three) of lab or field research, EEB people, science-related or nature shots through Tuesday, November 20, 2012.
See your email for a link to the CTools site and instructions on how to upload images.
The winner receives the honorary title for the year of “Photographer at Large” in memory of David Bay who 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.
The photos are always stunning whether they are taken around the world or just around the bend. Looking forward to seeing through your lenses once again!
Cartoon credit: John Megahan
Denef awarded DoE grant for Great Lakes research
Friday, November 02, 2012
The Department of Energy awarded Professor Vincent Denef a grant valued at $150,000 for sequencing microbial and viral DNA from Lake Huron. The award is through the DoE Joint Genome Institute's Community Sequencing Program.
The goal of the study is “to determine how dynamic the Lake Huron microbial communities are in function of near-shore to off-shore, day to night and season-to-season environmental dynamics,” said Denef.
According to Denef’s project summary, “Most freshwater systems are net carbon dioxide emitters due to the processing of terrestrial carbon. The Laurentian Great Lakes, which are the focus of my research program, are the largest surface freshwater system in the world (approximately 20 percent of all surface freshwater) and are threatened by significant regional changes in the next century due to global change (climate, land use, and invasive species).
“While the role of bacterio- and virioplankton communities as part of the aquatic microbial loop is well appreciated, the resolution at which these communities are incorporated into food web models is very coarse. Efforts to increase this resolution by metagenomic sequencing are rapidly increasing our insights into marine microbial life yet lag significantly behind in freshwater environments. The samples focused on in this proposal derive from three research cruises on Lake Huron (spring, summer, and fall 2012) as an integrated part of the interagency (Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Geological Survey) Year of Lake Huron research cruises examining the entire food web.
“This work will provide baseline information on how subtle gradients (e.g., temperature, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, dissolved organic matter, higher trophic level biomass/composition) constrain microbial community structure and activity in Lake Huron. The eventual goal of my research program is to develop better predictions of microbial feedback responses to global change in the Great Lakes region.”
Watch for U-M News Service coverage of Denef’s microbial work in the Great Lakes in the coming year. “If all goes well, my team and I will be doing field work in Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior next year,” said Denef.
The research proposed will not only generate data important for the Great Lakes scientific community, but will also provide important benchmarks for understanding microbial communities inhabiting lakes, for which data remain scarce.
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As seen in the Record Update: Sallan Paleocast podcast now online
Thursday, November 01, 2012
EEB Michigan Fellow Lauren Sallan was recently interviewed about the early record of vertebrates, especially fishes, by Palaeocast, an online radio show supported by the Paleontological Society. The podcast, “Episode 6: Early vertebrate evolution and extinction” was published online November 1, 2012.
Sallan, an assistant professor in EEB, discusses what vertebrates are, when they originated, why jawed fishes came to dominance 400 million years ago and how the severe end-Devonian extinction affected vertebrate biodiversity.
According to the Paleocast website, “Vertebrates are one of the most diverse and successful groups of animals on the planet. Modern vertebrates come in an astounding array of sizes and shapes and can be found anywhere from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains. Yet vertebrates did not attain such success from the outset; their rise to dominance was gradual. The early evolution of vertebrates was a dynamic and, at times, a turbulent interval which, through studying the fossil record, we are able to understand in increasing detail.”
Sallan studies early vertebrate evolution, biodiversity and ecology. The 49-minute podcast is accompanied by several related photos and diagrams on the website.
As seen in the Record Update in Michigan in the News, November 2, 2012
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On the U-M Gateway: U-M launches $9 million effort to strengthen Great Lakes restoration
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
A new $9 million University of Michigan Great Lakes research and education center will guide efforts to protect and restore the world's largest group of freshwater lakes by reducing toxic contamination, combating invasive species, protecting wildlife habitat and promoting coastal health.
With a $4.5 million, three-year grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the new University of Michigan Water Center will provide a solid scientific framework for more efficient and effective Great Lakes restoration.
U-M scientists and their partners across the region will use research and on-the-ground collaboration to inform Great Lakes restoration projects. The initiative was announced today by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who said the university will add an additional $4.5 million to the project over three years.
"As a university, we need to take on ownership and responsibility of regional sustainability challenges that affect us, close to home and where our expertise can have enormous impact. The U-M Water Center will do that," Coleman said. "I want to thank the Erb Family Foundation for supporting our work and, more important, for continually pushing us to do more."
The U-M Water Center will be administered by the Graham Sustainability Institute and will involve faculty and students from across the university, including the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Read the full story in the U-M News Service press release
Currently on the U-M Gateway
Fall Recruitment Partnership builds bridges to help diversify sciences
Monday, October 29, 2012
Each September, as the promise of a new academic year unfolds, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology invites high performing students from underrepresented minorities to experience U-M graduate programs.
The Fall Recruitment Partnership gives students an idea of what it’s like to be a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. The initiative began in 2007, originally supported by a grant from the National Center for Institutional Diversity to Professors John Vandermeer (EEB) and Ivette Perfecto (SNRE). The Rackham Graduate School now funds the program.
“I had the opportunity to participate in the Fall Recruitment Partnership weekend in 2008,” said Naim Edwards, a current EEB Frontiers master’s student. “It was the fall of my senior year, and I had not given much thought to applying to graduate school at that point. I flew to Detroit with two other classmates and we were met at the airport with a warm welcome by a current grad student. Friday's schedule consisted of meetings with current faculty, who shared their work and interests with us, and the rest of the trip was spent at the George Reserve. At the reserve, we got a taste of the field ecology course. This was my foray into graduate school and life as a potential grad school at U of M.
“The experience, honestly, marked a moment where I began to not only consciously consider going to grad school, but it aroused a desire go to graduate school,” Edwards continued. “It felt cool to be in the presence of people who not only appreciate science and nature, but whose lives are dedicated to understanding it better. Long story short, the Fall Recruitment Partnership Weekend made an impression and inspired me to actively pursue a career in science.”
“The basic idea is to develop relationships with colleges and universities that tend to have high enrollments of underrepresented minority students,” said Vandermeer. “Currently we have ongoing relationships with Howard University, Morehouse University, Tuskegee University, University of Missouri at St. Louis, and several campuses of the University of Puerto Rico. Each year we ask our contacts there to provide us with a list of names of high-performing students who we might invite to ‘experience’ EEB and SNRE at U-M. The students visit labs, talk with faculty, graduate students, and admissions staff and participate in the field ecology course at the E.S. George Reserve.
“The field of ecology and evolutionary biology remains embarrassingly monolithic in terms of ethnic and cultural diversity,” Vandermeer said. “Our Fall Recruitment Partnership is intended to try to help solve this critical problem. Several solicitations for our Frontiers Master’s Program and Ph.D. program have emerged from these preview weekends.
We are pleased to announce our September 2012 visitors and their institutions: Dana Brown, University of Missouri; Ambria McDonald, Howard University; Kirk Numa, Morehouse College; Jonathan DeSheilds, Morehouse College; Betsy (Betsabe) Castro Escobar, University of Puerto Rico.
Thanks to the EEB students who hosted visitors overnight: Clarisse Betancourt Román, Cindy Bick, Rafael D’Andrea, Serge Farinas, Beatriz Otero Jimenez. And to students who hosted a meal or provided transportation: Buck Castillo, Katherine Crocker, Naim Edwards, Alex Moore, Senay Yitbarek.
Caption: Buck Castillo (EEB Frontiers master's student), Katherine Crosman (SNRE), Naim Edwards (Frontiers master's student), Dana Brown (University of Minnesota visiting student), Clarisse Betancourt Román (EEB Frontiers master's student) having fun at the E.S. George Reserve.
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NSF grant for Dick's Amazon biota research is part of a $4 million US-Brazil initiative
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Professor Christopher Dick was awarded a $265,000 five-year grant from the National Science Foundation. His research on plant evolutionary genetics in the Amazon rain forest is part of what will be the most integrative examination of Amazonian biodiversity and its history to date.
Dick will lead the plant evolutionary genetics component in collaboration with Dr. Scott Mori, a systematist with the New York Botanical Garden. Mori is a world-wide expert on the tropical Brazil nut tree family Lecythidaceae. Lecythidaceae is one of the most ecologically dominant tree families in mature growth Amazon rain forests.
“We will be using next generation sequencing approaches to reconstruct phylogenetic and demographic history of the Amazonian lineages in order to test hypotheses relating to historical landscape and climate changes,” said Dick. “The project also aims to catalog all of the herbarium and zoological collections available from the Amazon Basin, including collections in the U-M Herbarium and Museum of Zoology.”
Dick's student, Na Wei, a graduate student research assistant on the grant this semester, is working on the development of genomic markers.
The project is part of the Dimensions of Biodiversity program and funded jointly by NASA and NSF for $2 million to the US researchers, while funding agencies from Sao Paulo are providing another $2 million to support the Brazilian collaborators. The Dick lab will be hosting students from Brazil for this project.
Amazonia is Earth's most iconic center of biological diversity and endemism and is, arguably, the most important terrestrial ecosystem due to its contributions to global systems ecology, according to the project leader, Joel Cracraft of the American Museum of Natural History. “Amazonia includes a vast landscape of mostly lowland rainforest found in Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela. It harbors the world's highest species diversity, the largest fresh-water ecosystem in the world, and contributes substantially to shaping the Earth's atmospheric gasses and oceans and consequently its climate. Despite this global importance, we still have an incomplete understanding of how this biodiversity-rich biome developed over time. And knowing that history is crucially important for understanding how the short and long-term effects of biodiversity loss and climate change will impact the region, and the globe, in the future. This project therefore seeks to answer an overarching question in biodiversity science: How was the modern Amazonian biota and its environment assembled across space and time?
“The research is designed to understand the evolutionary and environmental-ecological history of Amazonia over the past 10 million years through a comparative approach that integrates across the disciplines of systematic biology, population biology, ecosystem structure and function, geology, Earth systems modeling and remote sensing, and paleoenvironmental history. The project involves researchers from seven research institutions in the United States, one in Canada, two in Great Britain, six institutions and universities in Brazil, and two in Argentina.
The team will build the largest database for Amazonian plants and vertebrates, will assemble genetic data in order to reconstruct the temporal development of Amazonian species diversity, employ geological field methods to develop a more detailed understanding of the history and change in the Amazon's major river systems and what that means for terrestrial ecosystems, and then integrate these findings with climate and atmospheric modeling in order to describe how Amazonia's ecosystems have affected global systems over time. The approaches taken during this project will establish a methodological template for analyzing information about the history of biotic and environmental change across large, ecologically complex landscapes in general.
The project creates a large framework for formal and informal education including the training of students, development of a major museum exhibit on Amazonia, workshops for K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers, publications in professional educational journals, and a web portal, The Evolutionary Encyclopedia of Amazonian Biodiversity, that will make all results available to the public, as well as serve as an informational platform about Amazonian biodiversity and its global importance.
Large legume tree, Dinizia excelsa, in a remnant of forest left in the pasture, near Manaus, Brazil, Amazon basin. Credit: Christopher Dick.
Forester who helped navigate the rainforest near Manaus, Brazil in the Amazon basin. Credit: Christopher Dick.
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Injaian spotlight on Rackham home page
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
When you visit the Rackham Graduate School website, Allison Injaian’s smiling face will be the first thing you’ll see. Injaian, an EEB master’s student, is profiled as part of the Rackham Centennial celebration. She received a Spring/Summer Fellowship for her work on the mechanism behind specialized face learning in paper wasps in the lab of Professor Liz Tibbetts.
Previous EEB web news on Rackham Centennial Spring/Summer Fellowship
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Program in Biology office moves to USB
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The Program in Biology office has moved from the Kraus Natural Science Building to a more spacious office in the Undergraduate Science Building that is closer to students’ classes. The Program in Biology office and staff are in Room 1140 USB, next to the Program in the Environment offices on the plaza level.
Staff phone numbers are the same, and of course you can always reach them via email. The move took place Monday, October 15, 2012. Once they get settled, they would be happy to show off their new home, so please stop by to visit.
Werner named ESA Fellow
Friday, October 19, 2012
Professor Earl Werner, director of the E.S. George Reserve, has been named an Ecological Society of America Fellow, a lifetime appointment.
The ESA unveiled two new Fellows programs to recognize and honor member contributions to the field of ecology. “The Fellows and Early Career Fellows programs will recognize the many ways in which our members contribute to ecological research and discovery, communication, education and pedagogy, and to management and policy,” said ESA President Scott Collins.
“Our goals are to honor our members and to support their competitiveness and advancement to leadership positions in the society, at their institutions and in broader society,” said ESA Awards Committee Chair Alan Hastings.
Hastings, together with ESA Vice President for Science Deborah Goldberg, Past President Steward Pickett and Executive Director Katherine McCarter, proposed the establishment of the Fellows and Early Careers Fellows program to the Society’s Governing Board which approved the proposal.
The ESA is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and the trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives.
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ID Day brings out science sleuths
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Items large and small, living and dead, were carried into the Museum of Natural History by science sleuths seeking to identify their prized possessions during ID Day.
Nearly 400 community members attended the 16th annual event hosted by the Museum of Natural History, October 7, 2012, many of them local school children. A team of 18 knowledgeable U-M Museum of Zoology graduate students, collection managers and curators volunteered their time to identify and describe biological specimens, as well as 15 volunteers from other areas.
A smattering of the 100 or so items brought in included: live oil beetles and a wolf spider, a raccoon skull, white-tailed deer teeth, boa constrictor scales, a dragonfly exoskeleton, glacial cobbles, gold in quartz, partial trilobite, an African necklace made from blobs of yellow tree sap, and even iron arrowheads from approximately 800 B.C. Seeing what shows up is half the fun for everyone!
In addition to bringing in their own objects, participants learned about display specimens provided from each of the UMMZ’s divisional collections: bird, mammal, amphibians and reptiles, fishes, insects and mollusks.
Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, curator and director of UMMZ extends his thanks to all UMMZ personnel who helped make ID Day a success: EEB graduate students: Cindy Bick, Samantha Flowers, Alison Gould, Tristan McKnight, Paula Teichholtz, Alexa Unruh (recent graduate); Animal Diversity Web: Tanya Dewey; faculty: Alison Davis Rabosky, Tom Duda, Barry O’Connor, Diarmaid Ó Foighil, Dan Rabosky, Gerald Smith (emeritus); collections staff: Janet Hinshaw, Steve Hinshaw, Taehwan Lee, Mark O’Brien; EEB undergraduate student: Dan Winfield.
O’Brien, collections manager, Insect Division, found it interesting that many little girls spent a lot of time with the insects on display. “We had a dissecting scope set up with a carpenter ant to look at,” he said. “It was really fun hearing the kids look in and go ‘Wow!’ Most had never looked into a microscope before, and who knows what that exposure will lead them to?”
Two young girls and their mother brought in several oil beetles (Cantharidae, Meloe americana) in a plastic cage wanting to know what they were. “When I pointed out that the beetles give off a caustic fluid, one of the girls said, ‘Don't worry, Mom, we used a stick to pick them up.’”
If the science sleuths left with some new information and a story or two to tell, then ID Day was a success.
Captions: top to bottom: 1. Dan Winfield manning the herpetology table. 2. Taehwan Lee at the mollusk table talking to a visitor. 3. Steve and Janet Hinshaw staff the bird table. 4. Dan Winfield and Professor Dan Rabosky keeping things under control with the amphibians and reptiles. 5. Professor Emeritus Gerry Smith educates visitors about fishes. Credit: Mark O'Brien.
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Records 81 to 90 of 296