EEB graduate news
Records 51 to 60 of 86
Messinger lands Yale postdoc
Thursday, April 19, 2012
EEB recent graduate, Dr. Susanna Messinger, accepted a Gaylord Donnelley Postdoctoral Environmental Fellowship through the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS). Four Donnelley Fellowships are awarded each year. It's a two year fellowship that Messinger will begin in July.
Messinger’s sponsor, Dr. David Vasseur, is interested in how environmental fluctuations influence population and community dynamics and more recently has been delving into the realm of eco-evolutionary dynamics.
“I am also going to be collaborating with Dr. Mark Urban at the University of Connecticut who studies the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that shape communities over different spatial scales,” she said. “I will be starting a project to study predator evolution in a spatial context. The idea is that spatial structure can induce eco-evolutionary feedbacks that significantly affect predator evolution and thus will play an important role in population dynamics as well as the structure and stability of complex communities. I will be building up from theory that I developed here as a graduate student and will attempt to test some of this theory using small predators, like protozoans or Daphnia. I'm particularly excited by the prospect of bridging theoretical and experimental data, since this is not often done!”
Messinger’s EEB advisor was Professor Annette Ostling.
In this article:
Messinger, Susanna; Ostling, Annette
Three students receive Rackham International Research Awards
Monday, April 16, 2012
EEB graduate students Alison Gould, David Marvin and Beatriz Otero Jimenez received Rackham International Research Awards from the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and the U-M International Institute.
Gould's research addresses the recruitment dynamics and population connectivity of the bioluminescent cardinalfish, Siphamia versicolor. “I plan to look for signals of genetic structure in S.versicolor over a biogeographic region in the Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan. These genetic patterns will provide substantial insight on the question of whether populations of coral reef fishes are open or closed." Gould received $5,000 to carry out this research in Okinawa, Japan this summer.
Marvin said, “The grant will support my dissertation research, which uses a combination of airborne and satellite remote sensing imagery with field-based forest censuses to discriminate liana (woody vine) and tree canopy cover in tropical forests. The research develops a method to detect liana canopy cover at landscape scales, quantify its extent, and verify whether it has increased over recent decades. The discovery that lianas have increased in size and abundance in tropical forests suggests these forests may see a change in community composition and a reduction in their carbon storage capacity. Monitoring changes in liana canopy cover will increase the accuracy of predicted changes to tropical forests, and aid in understanding the mechanisms responsible for increasing liana size and abundance.” His advisor is Professor Robyn Burnham and he received $7,500.
Otero Jimenez is interested in researching the effect of different land uses on biodiversity and ecosystem function, especially in agricultural systems. This summer, she will be working in Chiapas, Mexico with her advisor, Professor John Vandermeer. “I will be looking at the effect matrix composition has on dispersal and connectivity of forest animals. I will be working specifically with Heteromys desmarestianus, forest mice that live in moist tropical forests. I will be working in forest patches surrounded by coffee farms.” She will collect tissue samples for two months and return to Ann Arbor to do DNA extraction and genetic analysis to determine if populations from different forest patches are distinct and how connected they are. Otero Jimenez received $7,000.
RIRAs are presented to students with strong academic records who demonstrate outstanding scholarly and professional promise, steady progress toward their degrees and have feasible plans for conducting international dissertation or thesis-related research.
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Dig it: DDIG grant for Qixin He
Monday, April 16, 2012
EEB graduate student Qixin He has been awarded a Doctorate Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) of $15,000 from the National Science Foundation from June 1, 2012 for two years. She studies in the lab of Professor L. Lacey Knowles.
“Climate change and human disturbance increase the threats posed by disease vectors,” said He. “Therefore, understanding mechanisms enabling their rapid adaptation is of central importance. This study focuses on whether a specific chromosomal structural change (i.e., chromosomal inversions) facilitates adaptive divergence of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, the most severe malaria vector in sub-Sahara Africa. Such chromosomal structural changes may promote local adaptation because they buffer populations from the mixing effects of migrants from different habitats. This study will test this hypothesis empirically using a framework that will provide detailed demographic, geographic, and temporal information relevant to testing mechanisms of rapid adaptation. The study will also provide insights into the current debate regarding the source of adaptation: rapid adaptation facilitated by new inversion mutations or pre-existing genetic variation.”
“The results will be directly relevant to informing pest control agencies of which demographic or genetic factors will be the best target to impede rapid adaptation in mosquitoes. For example, it can provide critical information on whether genetically modified mosquitoes can compete with native populations and survive in the local environment. The work will foster academic communications between the Unitied States and Cameroonian researchers and students, and promote the education of local communities in malaria preventions.”
Image: Qixin He catches mosquitoes in a village in Cameroon and meets local villagers.
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100 fellowships for Rackham centennial: Chang and Injaian awarded spring/summer fellowships
Friday, April 13, 2012
EEB graduate students Dan Chang and Alli Injaian have been awarded two of the 100 Rackham Centennial Spring/Summer 2012 Fellowships of $6,000.
Chang studies molecular ecology and genetics with her advisor, Professor Tom Duda. “Ecology plays an important role in organismal evolution, but it is always challenging to understand the ramifications of these ecological forces on molecular evolutionary processes associated with the origins of adaptations and the species interaction,” said Chang. “In particular, it is extremely difficult to identify the genetic variables that work at the interface of predator-prey interactions, especially genes that are directly involved with predation. Predatory marine snails of the genus Conus represent an ideal system for study because they employ venoms composed of a cocktail of neurotoxins (termed “conotoxins”) that are direct gene products of known genes to capture prey. In my dissertation entitled 'Evolutionary ecology of Conus: evolution and expression of conotoxin genes and their association with prey' I investigated the adaptive diversification of venom genes at both inter- and intra-specific levels. In the last chapter of my dissertation, I specifically plan to test the hypothesis that Conus exhibit distinct conotoxin gene expression patterns during non-larval life history stages (larvae feed on phytoplankton and do not use venom) and that shifts in venom composition correspond to shifts in diet. This study provides new perspectives on the relationships between venom evolution and prey diversification, and reveals to us the role of ecologically-relevant genes in predator-prey interactions. I have studied the diets of Conus ebraeus in Guam and found at least two dietary shifts after settlement. This spring/summer I will finish the analysis of conotoxin gene expression in different developmental stages. The Rackham Centennial Fellowship allows me to complete my dissertation research and prepare for my defense in the fall."
Injaian researches sexual selection and animal behavior with her advisor, Professor Elizabeth Tibbetts. “In humans, individual face recognition is associated with cognitive specialization for faces: humans learn and remember faces better than any other visual stimuli,” said Injaian. “Remarkably, new research shows similar specialization in Polistes fuscatus (paper wasp), providing the opportunity to study face specialization in a way which was previously not possible. To test whether specialized face learning is an innate ability or if this expertise is accrued with exposure to faces over time, I will manipulate early life experience of P. fuscatus and test if wasp age is correlated with cognitive specialization for face-learning and if social experience is necessary for cognitive specialization for face-learning.”
In celebration of the Rackham Graduate School’s 100th anniversary, Rackham designed the fellowship to enable graduate students enrolled in a Rackham program to work on research, scholarly, or creative projects in collaboration with faculty mentors during the spring/summer 2012 term to advance progress towards the degree and their future impact as “Michigan graduate students in the world.”
The $6,000 fellowship is to cover living expenses for the term. An interdisciplinary faculty panel reviewed applications based on the clarity and coherence of the research, scholarship, or creative work proposed; how the proposed work directly relates to and helps achieve progress towards the degree; and the commitment of the faculty advisor to provide mentoring to the student during the summer.
Pictured above: Dan Chang and Alli Injaian
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Churchill awarded UMMZ Tinkle Scholarship
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
EEB graduate student Celia Churchill has received the Donald W. Tinkle Scholarship from U-M Museum of Zoology. This $5,000 award is a special recognition of her research excellence. Churchill researches marine invertebrate evolution and systematics with her advisor, Professor Diarmaid Ó Foighil.
“The past decade of evolutionary research highlights the inadequacy of applying terrestrial models of speciation to marine lineages,” said Churchill. “While the recent Challenger Deep expedition promoted the ocean floor as ‘Earth’s final frontier,’ the reality is that we know very little about open ocean communities at any depth. How is biodiversity created and maintained at sea? To answer that question, I have focused upon the neuston, a community of drifting animals at the surface of tropical and temperate seas. The ultimate goal of my doctoral research is to construct a comprehensive phylogeny/phylogeography of the neuston across three trophic levels (zooxanthellar algae, their cnidarian hosts, and predatory mollusks) and all five of the planet’s subtropical gyre systems (giant rotating ocean surface currents). Collectively, these results will help develop an in-depth understanding of the inherent biodiversity and evolutionary history of the neuston community, which occupies over 60 percent of the Earth’s surface.”
On a related note, Churchill’s recent research on bubble-rafting snails (published October 2011) in Current Biology was featured in the April 2012 issue of the National Geographic magazine.
The scholarship was endowed by the family and friends of Dr. Tinkle, who joined U-M in 1965 as professor and curator of reptiles and amphibians. Tinkle became director of the Museum of Zoology in 1975 and served until his death in 1980. He was a systematist, an evolutionary biologist, an evolutionary ecologist and an exceptional teacher whose most important legacy is the group of students he inspired. In the field, especially, he was known for his enthusiasm, endurance and sense of humor. It is entirely appropriate that a scholarship awarded to an outstanding student in the Museum of Zoology each year is in his name.
In this article:
Churchill, Celia; Ó Foighil, Diarmaid
On the U-M Gateway: slow snails, fast genes
Monday, April 02, 2012
A groundbreaking paper about snail conotoxin evolution by EEB doctoral student Dan Chang and her advisor, Professor Tom Duda, was published online March 29, 2012 in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Click on the featured photos on the U-M Gateway
Watch for an EEB research feature coming soon. U-M News Service press release.
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Brownies go "buggy" in Tibbetts Lab
Thursday, March 29, 2012
A local Brownie Troop donning pipe cleaner antennae atop their heads visited Professor Liz Tibbett’s lab on Friday, March 23 to earn their Brownie Bug Patches.
“We talked about insect life history, looked at various stages of wasps, and talked about how humans and insects can interact,” said EEB graduate student Katherine Crocker, who helped arrange the tour.
The four girls of Troop #74645 are Elizabeth Amata, Bridgid Hughes, Veronica Klawender, Claire Kurpinski, second graders at Our Lady of Sorrows, Farmington, Mich.
“It was a lot of fun -- the girls were very excited to see old wasp nests and the wasps themselves,” said Crocker. “They were also shocked to see me hold a male wasp with my bare hands – male wasps can't sting. They had a lot of fun thinking about the ways that insects can help humans, the ways that humans and insects are similar, and how wasps can communicate. Being second-graders, they did a lot of squealing about things in general.”
The biggest hit was the “bug goggles” provided by EEB graduate student Mike Sheehan. These lab safety goggles have faceted lenses added, to approximate how insects see.
“Linda and I really enjoyed listening to the interaction between the girls and Katherine, especially when she was telling them about wasps,” said Christina Mui Amata, Brownie troop leader and a proud U-M alumnus. Linda Kurpinski is co-troop leader. “My daughter, Elizabeth, asked ‘how big is a wasp's brain?’ And sure enough, Katherine's labmate, Mike, had run actual calculations and could tell the girls that it is one-millionth the size of a human brain. How cool is that?!”
“There were also classic second grade questions like, ‘how big is a wasp's poop?’ Our favorite question was directed at Katherine, ‘has a wasp ever pooped on you?’ And like a true academic professional, she said ‘yes’ and elaborated, and didn't just laugh it off as a silly question," Mui Amata continued. "Very impressive."
“Thank you for giving the girls an amazing experience in the lab! They were fascinated by all the cool things they got to do with you, and we'll put up our bug drawing (thanks Prof. Tibbetts!) to remember the day. Katherine was terrific!”
Veronica Klawender gets a bugs-eye view through safety goggles.
Katherine Crocker holding a male wasp as Brigid Hughes, Claire Kurpinski, and Elizabeth Amata look on.
From left to right: Brownies from Our Lady of Sorrows Veronica Klawender, Claire Kurpinski, Elizabeth Amata and Brigid Hughes get buggy with EEB graduate student Katherine Crocker (in front).
In this article:
Sheehan awarded NIH NRSA postdoc
Monday, March 26, 2012
EEB graduate student Michael Sheehan has received a National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Health. The fellowship will fund a proposal Sheehan wrote on the evolutionary genetics of urinary proteins in mice.
“Mice have complex, individually distinctive scents determined by their major urinary proteins,” he said. “These distinct smells are used to recognize other mice individually. My project seeks to understand the genetic mechanisms that give rise to these unique phenotypes. Additionally, we will examine patterns of genetic variation to see if there is a signature of selection maintaining variation in this highly diverse phenotype.”
Sheehan will begin work with Dr. Michael Nachman (a UM Biology Ph.D. alumnus) at the University of Arizona, Tucson, in August 2012. The work is in collaboration with Drs. Jane Hurst and Rob Beynon, experts on mouse urinary proteins, at the University of Liverpool.
“The broader implication is that it will provide a basis for understanding the basis of phenotypic variation, which is poorly understood, and likely to be important in range of fields from evolutionary biology to medicine,” he explained. “To a lesser extent, we will document variation in urinary proteins from wild mouse populations. Urinary proteins from mice are allergens and thought to be a major contributor to asthma and breathing problems in urban areas.”
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EEB students judge SE Michigan Science Fair
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
A handful of EEB graduate students were volunteer judges at the 54th annual Southeast Michigan Science Fair in mid-March 2012 at Washtenaw Community College.
Project topics asked questions as specific as do moving mirrors increase the efficiency of solar panels and whether mushrooms can pass gas to as far-reaching as our ability to reverse global warming. The fair included projects from area students in grades six through 12.
“Judging the science fair was a lot of fun – I did it with two of my housemates, and we had a blast looking at what ways kids apply science and scientific inquiry to the world,” said Katherine Crocker, who volunteered for the first time this year.
Crocker judged part of the junior high collections section, which was more descriptive than experimental. Projects explained the history of human understanding of light, the history of airplane flight, hydrofracking, what makes hamburgers bad for you (not the fat, surprisingly, but the chemicals they use to sterilize the meat in the packing plants, according to the project), and the benefits of using methane from water treatment plants. One of her favorites was a mathematical and anatomical investigation of why "an arrow to the knee" is so debilitating in Skyrim, a videogame.
"I've loved taking part in the Southeast Michigan Science Fair for the past five years,” said Liz Wason. “Many of the kids put a lot of thought and creativity into what turn out to be interesting projects. Participating in the science fair informs my own work by giving me a fresh perspective on the fundamental process of research. Using quantifiable criteria to judge elementary-school projects helps to remind me of the nuts and bolts of science."
Jasmine Crumsey, a fifth year volunteer, looks for the story behind what brought the student to their project. “I’m looking for a student to tell me how they came to care, the same way scientists explain why they do what they do to the public,” she said in an annarbor.com article. Crumsey noted that based on the entries, she sees a growing interest in the environment and its impact on people.
Other EEB volunteers included KC Semrau, for her second year and Sarah Barbrow, an EEB alumnus in her fifth year of volunteering.
Read more in an annarbor.com article
Pictured above left to right, top to bottom: Katherine Crocker, Jasmine Crumsey, KC Semrau, Liz Wason. Mushroom photo by KC Semrau.
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EEB Frontiers student profiled in national SEEDS enewsletter
Sunday, March 18, 2012
EEB master’s student Beatriz Otero Jimenez earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, in environmental sciences, where she has been a member of Strategies for Ecology, Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) since 2007.
Read more about Otero Jimenez’s research interests and summer plans in Chiapas, Mexico in the March 15, 2012 SEEDS enewsletter and watch for a Frontiers profile of her coming soon. Otero Jimenez's advisor is Professor Mark Hunter.
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Records 51 to 60 of 86