EEB graduate news
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Science outreach opportunity with Huron High School
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Are you interested in helping to turn high school students on to science? EEB graduate student Katherine Crocker is looking for participants for a local science education outreach project.
Science teachers at Ann Arbor’s Huron High School are really interested in having graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty give guest talks to show students the relevance of science outside the classroom. They're looking for 20 - 40 minute, high-school level talks relating your research to class material.Their secondary interest is in lab tours.
If you're interested (in giving talks, helping coordinate lab tours, or helping to record talks for digital access), please fill in this short survey (less than two minutes). Crocker will compile the information in a spreadsheet for the HHS science teachers, who may contact you. If you're concerned about time commitment, you can partner with others whose research relates to yours so that you can participate at a level convenient to you (either splitting the sections or recording your talk).
“This is a great opportunity to practice talking about your research, and to do science outreach!” said Crocker. Please pass the information along to anyone else who might be interested.
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Li awarded Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Jingchun Li, an EEB graduate student in the lab of Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil, has been awarded a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship. The fellowship supports outstanding doctoral students who have achieved candidacy and are actively working on dissertation research and writing.
“The enormous biodiversity on earth not only provides humans valuable biological resources, but also serves as a crucial component of our highly interdependent ecosystem. How this great biodiversity is generated remains a central question of biology and my thesis research aims to help answer it,” begins Li’s personal statement for the fellowship.
Li’s research is one of the first empirical investigations of how abiotic and biotic factors affect the evolutionary diversification of a major marine lineage, the bivalve superfamily Galeommatoidea. She is inspired by the increasing realization among macroevolutionary biologists that biotic interactions cannot be ignored if theory is to be reconciled with natural systems and that the interplay of abiotic and biotic drivers has shaped biotas through time.
The role of biotic factors in driving species diversiﬁcation has been extensively studied in terrestrial systems. Unfortunately, their impact on marine life is much less understood, even though 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean.
“I address this deficiency by studying the evolution of the hyperdiverse clam group Galeommatoidea. It is a particularly apt group because it contains large numbers of obligate commensal as well as free-living species and is therefore amenable to comparative approaches.
Li tackles the issue on three levels: 1) on a global level, for the entire superfamily; 2) on a regional level, for a faunal assemblage of commensal and free-living taxa that span three well-defined biogeographic provinces in southern Australia; 3) on a microevolutionary level, focusing on commensal species with multiple hosts.
Construction of global molecular phylogenies allows Li to test if free-living and commensal ecologies have differentially impacted rates of lineage diversification and morphological evolution in this group. The regional phylogeographic analyses engage with endemic diversification among free-living and commensal lineages along a contiguous coastline containing multiple abiotic breakpoints. This will yield a high-resolution analysis of how abiotic and biotic factors interact to shape marine diversification. The microevolutionary approach directly examines the importance of host-shifts in promoting speciation of commensal species.
Li will receive $28,800 over three terms, candidacy tuition and registration fees for fall and winter as well as GradCare health and dental insurance coverage for 2013-14. An award reception is planned for early April. Congratulations!
Read previous EEB web news on Li’s research
Caption: Jingchun Li with classmates on a boat trip at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island, near Seattle. They were collecting marine invertebrates as part of a marine invertebrate class.
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Hunter honored with Rackham Master's Mentoring Award
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Mark Hunter, Henry A. Gleason Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is the 2013 recipient of the Rackham Master’s Mentoring Award.
Hunter was nominated “for his dedicated and highly successful work as the founding director of the Frontiers Master’s Program,” according to EEB Professor and Chair Deborah Goldberg.
Following are some quotes from current and graduated Frontiers students:
“In Mark, we can always find support and words of encouragement, especially in moments when we doubted ourselves or our capabilities. He is always there to listen and believe in us.” (current second year Frontiers student)
“He was one of the most supportive and encouraging advisors I have ever known.” (2012 Frontiers graduate, now first year Ph.D. student at University of California at Berkeley)
“He is, all at once, very intense and intelligent, but also understanding and compassionate. It is these qualities, all wrapped up perfectly into one person, that have given me the confidence to know that I am good enough; good enough not just for the program that I am in, but good enough for anything that I try to do. He has supported my every endeavor, with words of wisdom, personal connections, and recommendation letters, and I don't think that I could have asked for a better advocate for my success than him.” (current second year Frontiers student)
Goldberg continued, “Another way to look at Mark’s success as a mentor of master’s students is to look at the overall success of the students in the Frontiers program while he was director.” Among the three cohorts (12 students) he’s overseen so far, 10 have completed the program with a master’s degree and two from the most recent cohort are still working on their degrees. Ten students are currently in Ph.D. programs, including at U-M EEB (four students), Harvard University, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and University of Minnesota.
“Finally, Mark’s stellar role running the Frontiers program in EEB led Rackham to use it as a model in developing a successful proposal to NSF’s bridges to the baccalaureate program to expand the model to several other STEM departments in LSA.
“Mark has been a brilliant mentor to individual master's students, but even more important, he has influenced the very way we educate master's students both in EEB and across multiple departments through his work in the Rackham bridging programs,” said Goldberg.
"The award came as a complete surprise,” said Hunter. “Really, the credit belongs to Deborah (Goldberg), Beverly (Rathcke) and John (Vandermeer) who conceived the idea (of the Frontiers Master’s Program) in the first place, and to Abby Stewart and Janet Weis who were so supportive as the program developed. Add to that the wonderfully talented cohorts of Frontiers students and the support of U-M Biological Station for our summer program, and I was just lucky to be involved."
The Rackham Graduate School has developed a number of initiatives and programs designed to improve the resources available to faculty mentors and their students, and really encourage a culture of mentorship at U-M. One of the ways they recognize the importance of mentoring is with three annual faculty awards for outstanding mentorship, this is one of those awards.
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Hundreds get rare behind the scenes museum access
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Behind the Scenes Day presents a rare opportunity to see the inner workings at the four museums of the Ruthven Museums Building on the U-M Central Campus each year. The Museums of Anthropology, Natural History, Paleontology, and Zoology welcomed some 350 visitors into collections areas, research laboratories, exhibit preparation areas, and other spaces not usually open to the public, Sunday, January 27, 2013. They met scientist-curators, collection managers, exhibit preparators, and student researchers, and learned about their work.
The Museum of Zoology contains millions of preserved biological specimens – from miniscule mites to gargantuan whale skeletons. The diversity of life represented in U-M collections is truly staggering. Visitors examined specimens including reptiles, amphibians, insects, mollusks, mammals, fish, and birds, and learned how research on museum specimens contributes to the study of global biodiversity, climate change and evolution.
Tours of the Museum of Paleontology led by curators and research staff took visitors into laboratories where research is conducted on Ice Age mammoths and mastodons, and the evolution of whales. They learned how paleontologists capture 3-D information on the shape and structure of fossils to enhance the understanding of the lives of ancient organisms. They saw actual specimens of species that inhabited our planet many thousands to millions of years ago.
The curiosity of the visitors together with the enthusiasm and expertise of the staff made for an exciting and successful day. Special thanks to the following EEB volunteers: birds: Janet Hinshaw, Sara Cole, Emile Moacdieh; mammals: Steve Hinshaw; reptiles and amphibians: Dan Rabosky, Alison Davis Rabosky, Jay Reed, Daniel Winfield; insects: Mark O'Brien; fishes: Doug Nelson; mollusks: Cindy Bick, Tom Duda, Samantha Flowers, Taehwan Lee, Jingchun Li, Diarmaid Ó Foighil, Paula Teichholtz. Professor Daniel Fisher led tours for the Museum of Paleontology along with graduate students from Earth and Environmental Sciences and a recent undergraduate student. The event is coordinated by the Museum of Natural History.
If you’re feeling like you missed out, you can go behind the scenes next year!
A photo and caption appeared in the University Record Update, Wednesday, Jan. 30.
Captions: (top to bottom) Credit: Dale Austin
Deep in the research wing of the Ruthven Museums Building, Joseph El Adli (right), a paleontology graduate student, reveals secrets hidden within a mastodon skull.
A wide-eyed young visitor inspects tiny dinosaur teeth up close. She was amazed at how tiny some fossils are. Joseph El Adli discusses how difficult it was to separate the little teeth from the dirt.
Taehwan Lee, collection coordinator and assistant research scientist, Mollusk Division, explains the differences between terrestrial and marine mollusks to Kathleen LaJeunesse. Previously, dry shells were kept in the collections but now full specimens are kept in alcohol so that DNA is available.
Steve Hinshaw (right), collection manager, Mammal Division, reveals the contents of one of thousands of specimen drawers.
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Injaian awarded EEB/Matthaei Botanical Gardens Research Fellowship
Friday, January 18, 2013
EEB master’s student Alli Injaian has been awarded an EEB/Matthaei Botanical Gardens Research Fellowship to help fund her research at the gardens. Injaian’s advisor is Professor Elizabeth Tibbetts.
“Amazingly, like humans, Polistes fuscatus paper wasps are specialized to learn the faces of nest-mates, allowing them to recognize individuals,” said Injaian. “Development behind this specialization may be age-based; therefore during the spring/summer I plan to test the face learning ability of young (3-day) and old (10-day) wasps. This research will allow us to better understand the development of specialized face learning. The EEB/Botanical Gardens Fellowship will allow me to build new nest boxes, which house P. fuscatus. If you build it – they will come!” Injaian received just over $600.
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Li wins National Geographic Young Explorers Grant
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
EEB graduate student Jingchun Li has been awarded a National Geographic Society Young Explorers Grant from the NGS Committee for Research and Exploration.
The $5,000 award will support a field trip to southern Australia where Li and her collaborators, Dr. Lisa Kirkendale and Dr. Peter Middelfart from the Western Australian Museum, plan to conduct 30 days of extensive field sampling of a superfamily of clams, Galeommatoidea, in the Flindersian biogeographic province (southwest Australia).
This phase of Li’s clam study will test the relative importance of free-living and commensal lifestyles in driving regional galeommatoidean diversification. Using data from the Australian species, the researchers will reconstruct the phylogeographic history of the regional taxa.
Li’s research represents a first attempt to evaluate biotic vs. abiotic diversification mechanisms in an extant diverse marine lineage. The title of her project is "The role of biotic association in marine diversification processes: a regional test." Li works in the lab of her advisor, Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil.
The marine bivalve superfamily Galeommatoidea is an apt group for addressing the topic for two reasons. First, Galeommatoidea is a megadiverse group that has arguably the highest level of species diversity among marine bivalve superfamilies. Secondly, the clams embody a clear ecological dichotomy in that many members are free-living crevice dwellers while many others have intimate commensal relationships with diverse invertebrate hosts (attached to, or living in burrows of hosts).
The researchers hypothesize that commensal species are subject to host-mediated diversification mechanisms (e.g. host shifting), in addition to geographic isolation mechanisms (e.g. vicariance) that also act on free-living taxa. And this additional diversification opportunity may contribute to the high species diversity of Galeommatoidea.
“By comparing diversification rates/patterns between commensal and free-living lineages for the entire superfamily, the effect of biotic association can be assessed,” Li explained. “However, this approach is unlikely to yield a fine grained comparison of microevolutionary processes between the two groups. To do this, I need to study taxa of both groups that have diversified across a shared biogeographic canvas, so their evolutionary histories are comparable. The temperate coast of southern Australia represents an ideal study system because of its high degree of endemism and presence of three long recognized biogeographic provinces along a contiguous coastline.”
Read previous EEB web news on the first stage of the research.
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Shutterbug splendor: photo contest winners announced
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Hats off to our new Honorary Photographer at Large, Sara Fortin, who came in first place with "Bold Ridge Summit" taken near Eklutna Lake, Alaska. Fortin is a research lab technician in the lab of Professor George Kling.
Second place goes to Mark O’Brien for "Dragon hunter” shot at the U-M Biological Station in Pellston, Mich. O’Brien is collections manager in the Insect Division at the Museum of Zoology. Alison Gould captured third place for “Puffer,” an underwater photo taken in Okinawa, Japan. Gould is a Ph.D. student with her advisor, Professor Paul Dunlap.
Honorable mentions go to Jingchun Li for “A different kind of flower,” taken underwater in Hong Kong. Li is a Ph.D. student with her advisor, Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil. Jason Dobkowski shot “Springtime reflections” in North Slope, Alaska. Dobkowski is a research lab technician and master's student with his advisor, Professor Geoge Kling. Mark O’Brien took “Mosquito Falls” in Alger County, Mich. Sara Fortin photographed “Liquid ice” near Galbraith, Alaska and Alex Wenner shot “Spider web revealed” in Pinckney, Mich. Wenner is facilities manager at the E.S. George Reserve.
Fortin 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.
Kudos to the winning photographers and thank you to everyone who submitted a photo and/or voted in the contest. Sixteen people submitted 40 stunning photos. Over 300 votes were cast (pick top five) by 68 people. There’s a whole year ahead to get creative behind your lenses for the photo contest when it returns next fall.
Watch for an LSA Today feature on EEB’s photo contest winners coming in 2013! LSA’s coverage will include further details about the winning entries.
Photo captions (from top): Bold Ridge Summit, Sara Fortin; Dragon hunter, Mark O'Brien; Puffer, Alison Gould.
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Ho awarded Rackham Chia-Lun Lo Fellowship
Monday, December 10, 2012
EEB Ph.D. student Wei-Chin Ho was awarded a Chia-Lun Lo Fellowship of $10,000 for 2012-2013 through the U-M Rackham Graduate School.
Ho is interested in studying genotype-phenotype relationships and related evolutionary questions. He is especially interested in the evolution of robustness, wherein phenotypes remain less changed during genetic perturbation or environmental perturbation. Using different kinds of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) traits, he is testing whether or not robustness was adaptively originated. Ho's advisor is Professor Jianzhi Zhang.
“I found that if a trait is more important to fitness, its robustness is stronger. This evidence supports robustness as being adaptive. In the future, because the metabolic networks of many other kinds of species are also available, I hope to expand my studies to other species and see if the observed phenomenon is true in other species. I also hope to find molecular-level mechanisms contributing to robustness and study the role of robustness in evolution.”
The Chia-Lun Lo Fellowship Fund was established by Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur (AM ‘61, Ph.D. ’72), a Barbour Scholar and Professor Emerita of History at Eastern Michigan University. In 2011, Upshur established the fund in honor of her father, Chia-Lun Lo, an important educator in modern China, a pioneer in the new culture movement, and a prolific writer who dedicated his life to education and public service. After completing his graduate studies in the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany, Lo joined the Chinese national government in 1927 as deputy director of studies in the newly established Central Party Affairs Institute (now National Chengchi University). In a long, distinguished career he was later appointed president of the National Central University (1932-1941), ambassador to India, president of the Academic Historica, among many other posts, and was elected a member of the National Assembly, representing educators. Upshur's mother, Wei-Djen Djang Lo, is a graduate of U-M and was a Barbour Scholar from 1926-27.
The award reflects the Rackham Graduate School's very positive assessment of Ho’s future success.
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Miller and Shi awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships
Thursday, December 06, 2012
First year EEB graduate students Celia Miller and Jeff Shi, have been awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The awards have a long history of recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. They will receive $30,000 a year for three years and an additional $12,000 annually for healthcare and tuition.
Celia Miller is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Professor Brad Cardinale. She graduated with her B.S. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2011, where she spent four years doing research on lichen systematics. “With my background in evolutionary biology, I've become fascinated with the feedback between ecology and evolution,” Miller said. “I plan to investigate the relationship between phylogeny and the coexistence of competing species. I'm particularly interested in the evolution of ecological niches (which evolves first – resource differences or climatic differences?), and the evolution of rare and abundant species. The Cardinale lab does (among other things) experimental ecological work in freshwater systems, and I will work with green algae communities.” During upcoming summers, she will do fieldwork in freshwater lakes in Michigan, at the E.S. George Reserve or other field stations.
Jeff Shi is a Ph. D. student working with advisors Professors Catherine Badgley and Dan Rabosky. “By nearly any metric, bats encompass a broad spectrum of mammalian diversity,” Shi said. “What evolutionary and ecological factors drive and limit this unparalleled radiation of diversity? I am particularly interested in the breadth of feeding behaviors within bats, which include insectivores, frugivores, sanguivores, and other specializations. This ecological diversity, importantly, is not uniformly distributed across bats. With my advisors Catherine Badgley and Dan Rabosky, I intend to investigate bat macroevolution, using a combination of field work, morphologic and genetic data, and computational phylogenetic techniques. My research will highlight the interactions of bats with other organisms and their environment as factors that have shaped their evolutionary history.”
The NSF GRF Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in the U.S. and abroad. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners.
Benjamin Miller, a first year master’s student also received an NSF GRF that was announced earlier this year. See previous EEB web news.
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National Geographic grant for endangered Pacific Island land snails
Friday, November 16, 2012
Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil and EEB graduate student Cindy Bick have been awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research Exploration for their studies with a highly endangered tree snail family endemic to the Pacific oceanic islands.
The $24,000 grant will support Bick’s research on the role of prehistoric humans in introducing partulid tree snails to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and on reconstructing prehistoric East-West exchange networks in Near Oceania (PNG and the Solomon Islands). The research will greatly increase understanding of regional partulid diversity, thereby enabling the development of an informed conservation strategy for these snails.
Partulid trees snails on the island archipelagos of PNG have extraordinary multi-archipelago ranges and their association with coastal villages strongly implicates prehistoric human introduction as the regional dispersal mechanism. Extensive exchange networks have interconnected regional island groups since at least 3300 BP* with the first appearance of settlers on the Pacific Islands who were responsible for populating Remote Oceania. The earliest populated sites are predominantly located on small offshore islands and in coastal regions of larger PNG islands, a distribution pattern that matches that of PNG partulid snail populations.
The study aims to find the source island/archipelago for PNG partulids. Candidate islands spanning Near Oceania and the Near/Remote Oceania boundary will be sampled and their tree snails genotyped for nuclear and mitochondrial markers. Source island/archipelago populations are predicted to occur in native forest habitat, to be genetically inclusive of the founder PNG populations and to contain sister species of the founder lineage. Results will yield novel insights into regional east-west prehistoric exchange networks and will provide an independent test of regional interaction models addressing the human settlement of Remote Oceania.
*Before Present, using January 1, 1950 as the origin of the time scale because radiocarbon dating came into use in the 1950s.
Captions: Top photo from Treehugger.com of Partula rosea. Bottom photo: Tahitian partulids. Partula hyalina on right (white shell) and Partula clara's shell is yellowish/brown (juvenile on far right ). Credit: Trevor Coote.
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