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Recent EEOB Graduate Student Spotlights
TogetherGreen fellowship awarded to EEOB graduate student, Lauren Sullivan
Lauren Sullivan, graduate student in ecology, evolution and organismal biology, was awarded the TogetherGreen fellowship for her vision of community involvement in prairie restoration.
TogetherGreen, a conservation initiative of The National Audubon Society and Toyota, selected 40 people nationwide to receive a $10,000 grant.
EEOB students receive Teaching Excellence Award
The Teaching Excellence Awards recognize and encourage outstanding achievement by graduate students in teaching. Only 10% of students teaching during the awarded semester are recognized. For Fall of 2011, EEOB was honored to be the home of three recipients, John Doudna, Adam Kuester, and Matthew Karnatz.
PhD student receives NSF GK-12 Fellowship
Tim Mitchell, a PhD candidate in Fredric Janzen's lab, is bringing his science experience to a Des Moines middle school classroom each week. Mitchell, supported through an NSF GK-12 Fellowship, works with students on designing science experiments, analyzing data, and interpreting results. This collaboration between research scientists and classrooms is beneficial for the middle school students, the graduate student and the science teacher, as they all learn a lot from one another.
EPA STAR fellows attend conference
EEOB PhD candidates Leanne Martin and Rory Telemeco recently attended the EPA STAR Fellowship conference in Washington, D.C. where they met with U.S. Representative Tom Latham of Iowa's 4th Congressional District. While meeting with Latham, Martin and Telemeco were able to share the role of the EPA STAR fellowship in funding graduate students that perform policy-relevant scientific research at Iowa State University.
PhD student gains valuable experience through the Knaphus Teaching Fellowship
John Doudna, a doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology, was 2011 recipient of the Knaphus Teaching Fellowship. The fellowship was established in honor of George Knaphus and provides one graduate student the opportunity to teach Biology 101 over the summer semester.
Doudna said, "The Knaphus fellowship is a rare and rewarding experience. It gave me the opportunity to design, implement, and evaluate a non-majors introductory biology course under the mentorship of Dr. Jim Colbert."
He also stated, "The experience was humbling. I learned more pedagogical strategy from teaching this four-week course than I have in all of my years as a graduate teaching assistant. This experience has improved my teaching skills as well as the trajectory of my academic career. "
PhD student, Ehsan Kayal, received Predoctoral Fellowship
Kayal received the Predoctoral Fellowships from the Smithsonian Fellowship Award. This fellowshipallows students to conduct research for ten-week periods in association with Smithsonian research staff members. Kayal's funding will allow him work on the phylogeny of hydrozoans at the SNMNH in Washington DC under the supervision of Dr Allen G, Collins and Dr. Stephen D. Cairns, and in collaboration with Dr Peter Schuchert from le Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Genève, Switzerland.
Hydrozoans are remarkable by the large diversity in their life cycles (polyp and/or medusa) and life forms (solitary or colonial). For instance, either the polyp or the medusa stage can undergo various levels of reduction or loss in a given taxa. Recent studies have highlighted the difficulties associated with polarizing the evolution of these morphological characters. Kayal's project involves amplifying and sequencing complete mitochondrial genomes using parallel sequencing technology. By resolving the phylogenetic relationship between various hydrozoan clades, they hope to shed light on the evolution of life forms in Hydrozoa, and to some extend in Cnidaria.
PhD Student, Pairett, receives research award
PhD student Autum Pairett was awared the Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid research award to study the interactions between opsin and its G-protein in the phototransduction pathway. The award is a highly competitive application process and only approximately 20% of applicants receive any level of funding.
PhD Student, Fuentes Ramirez, receives scholarship
PhD student Andres Fuentes Ramirez received support through the Chile Scholarship System. This system supports the formation and training of advanced degrees for students in foreign academic institutions of excellence in all areas of knowledge and in any country in the world except Chile. With a total of 6745 applications, only 325 Master's students and 439 PhD students were selected based on their academic excellence in their field of research.
PhD Student, Tonia Schwartz, develops science activities for middle school students.
Symbi, Iowa's first GK-12 Program is a partnership between Iowa State University and the Des Moines Public School District. Symbi is funded by the National Science Foundation to support Iowa State University graduate students (Fellows), such as Schwartz, conducting interdisciplinary research in areas associated with biorenewables. Each Fellow works collaboratively with a selected middle school science teacher to leverage the Fellow's research experiences as they develop innovative and engaging science activities for middle school students. The Fellows spend one full day every week throughout the public school year in a Des Moines middle school science classroom performing the duties of a "resident scientist" as they interact with their partner teacher and students.
PhD Student, Lakshmi Attigala, receives Lois H. Tiffany Scholarship
The Lois H. Tiffany Scholarship is awarded to graduate students to support research , either field or lab, work in the fields of evolution, systematics or ecology. Attigala will use this award to study the natural hybridization and potential use of low copy nuclear markers in phylogenetic inference of native Sri Lankan woody bamboos with an emphasis on Arundinaria. According to Attigala, "the data obtained can be used to answer questions related to historical biogeography as biogeographic patterns in this region provide an ideal model for testing long-lasting debate between Gondwanan vicariance and long dispersal explanation and also in conservation of Sri Lankan native bamboo diversity."
PhD Student, Erik Otarola-Castillo recognized in Evolutionary Anthropology
Otarola-Castillo and his collaborator, Ben Schoville, from Arizona State, were recently highlighted in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology for their innovative presentation at the Society for American Archaeology Meetings. They have developed a new method using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to test hypotheses about how stone tools were used by Stone Age Africans.
PhD student Leanne Martin receives EPA STAR Fellowship
Recent experimental work by Dr. Brian Wilsey and colleagues suggests plant communities composed of exotic species, persistent communities of which are commonly found in grassland landscapes, function differently than those composed of native species. However, abundances of exotic species on the landscape are unknown, and their impacts are typically quantified by looking at only one or a few exotic species invasions into native environments. Ecosystem services of persistent exotic communities have not been compared to native communities in working landscapes. Martin’s research will attempt to understand how relative abundances of exotic and native species in grasslands influence multiple ecosystem service tradeoffs between plant species diversity, carbon storage, productivity, and bee pollinator abundances at a landscape scale. To do this, she plans to compare paired exotic- and native- dominated grasslands and tradeoffs among their ecosystem services in a latitudinal gradient across a model landscape, the Eastern Great Plains tallgrass prairie region. Martin hopes her research will result in recommendations for managing multiple ecosystem services at a landscape scale.
PhD student Chelsea Berns receives Rosemary Grant Graduate Student Research Award
Berns received this first annual award through the Soceity for the Study of Evolution. The award is intended to assist students in the early stages of their Ph.D. programs by enabling them to collect preliminary data or to enhance the scope of their research beyond current funding limits.
PhD student Rory Telemeco receives EPA STAR Fellowship
Telemeco's research will attempt to determine the probable effects of impending climate change on reptiles using southern and northern alligator lizards (genus Elgaria) as model systems. To do this, TelemecoI will combine field and laboratory experimental techniques with cutting edge molecular phylogeographic techniques and bioclimatic modeling. Alligator lizards and their relatives (family Anguidae) are a diverse group of conspicuous lizards found throughout the northern hemisphere, many of which are endangered or threatened. Like all reptiles, many aspects of alligator lizard biology ranging from embryonic development to behavior are impacted by the thermal environment. However, these effects have never been directly examined in any Anguid species. Without this knowledge, it is impossible to know how climate change might impact these species or how to mitigate any climate change-induced decline. Telemeco hopes to bridge these knowledge gaps with his research and use this information to build models that will predict how threatened Anguid species will likely be impacted by climate change.
PhD student Tonia Schwarz receives NSF GK-12 Fellowship
As an NSF GK-12 Fellow SchwartzI will be partnering with a Des Moines area middle school teacher to improve science education. Over the summer and throughout the school year Schwartz will be working with the teacher and ISU faculty to develop inquiry-based learning projects, some of which will be directly related to her research. She will spend one day a week in the middle school working with the students to implement these hands-on research projects.
PhD student Lauren Sullivan receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Sullivan's work focuses on the ways in which plant species utilize space in order to coexist. Space is an important aspect of biodiversity maintenance that is frequently modeled theoretically but has rarely been tested in the field. Sullivan plans to manipulate the dispersal of three phylogenetically constrained plant species with different life history strategies (annual, perennial without strong vegetative reproduction, and perennial clonal) in different nutrient environments in order to monitor invasion and demonstrate coexistence or exclusion.
PhD student Dawn Reding receives NSF DDIG
For most animal species, natural or man-made barriers such as waterways, roads, or habitat gaps often constrain the movement of individuals across a landscape, reducing genetic exchange and isolating members into distinct populations. But highly mobile, broadly distributed species may be less susceptible to such barriers and hence genetic subdivision. The overall goal of Reding's dissertation research is to identify if and how landscape characteristics mediate gene flow over three spatial scales (local, regional, and continental) in a mobile carnivore, the bobcat (Lynx rufus). Can a common mechanism, or set of mechanisms, explain local differentiation as well as deeper divergences? This NSF support with allows Reding to explore the intriguing patterns emerging from the regional and fine-scale work. This project will lead to significant improvements in the understanding of how landscape characteristics may influence evolutionary and ecological processes in mobile species like bobcats. The findings will also aide in the conservation and management of this ecologically and economically important carnivore.
PhD student Tonia Schwartz receives NSF DDIG
How an individual responds to environmental stress (temperature changes, toxins, disease, social interactions) affects how that individual acts, its ability to reproduce, and its lifespan. Therefore, it is important to understand how the genetic make-up of an individual determines how it responds to stress; and how populations change over time (evolve) in response to their environmental conditions. Schwartz is addressing these questions using natural snake populations that consist of either slow-living (low reproduction, extended lifespan)or fast-living (high reproduction, shortened lifespan) individuals who respond to environmental stresses in different ways, but only slightly differ in genetic make-up. Using stress experiments and new DNA sequencing technologies on individuals from these populations, she can characterize their stress response both physiologically and at the genetic level and thus begin to understand the molecular basis for how they can respond to stress in different ways. Having identified what molecular networks have evolved differently in these populations, these networks will be explored further using a population genomics approach to more fully understand how they have changed in the different populations that have been living under different environmental conditions.
PhD student Andrew Kraemer investigates the evolution of color polymorphism
First year Ph.D. student Andrew Kraemer is interested in how speciation affects morphological diversity in different populations of organisms. Kraemer is particularly fascinated by the evolution of different color patterns in closely related species. Currently, he is investigating the evolution of a color polymorphism in multiple species of Plethodon salamanders. In addition, he recently received an honorable mention for a NSF predoctoral fellowship.
PhD student Tim Mitchell studies maternal effects in Painted Turtles
Since Painted turtles provide no parental care to their offspring, it may seem that all mothers are equal in their ability to produce successful offspring. Upon closer examination, it is clear that maternal reproductive decisions, such as where and when to nest, can have profound impacts on offspring. Maternal nesting behavior influences both the incubation and hibernation environments of her offspring, which can in turn affect offspring morphology, behavior, metabolism, survival, and even sex. Mitchell is currently studying the function and consequences of maternal nesting behavior along the Mississippi River in collaboration with Dan Warner and Fred Janzen. In addition, he recently received an honorable mention for a NSF predoctoral fellowship. Here Mitchell is pictured working with high school students as they excavate a turtle nest.
PhD student Kayal samples sponges on the reefs of Bocas del Toro, Panama
The difficulty when working with marine organisms so far from the sea is obviously the access to good samples. Although it is possible to obtain collected tissues from collaborators and collections, they do not replace fresh specimens. One main focus in the Lavrov lab is marine sponges. Thus, the lab often relies on colleagues to provide the samples needed. In the framework of the Porifera Tree of Life Project sponsored by NSF, as a part of their Assembling the Tree of Life initiative, Ehsan Kayal and Dr. Dennis Lavrov recently flew to an oasis of sponge diversity on the Caribbean coastline of Panama for a coordinated effort in sponge sampling. The two brought back samples for more than 40 new species of sponges and the lab will be busy sequencing their mitochondrial genomes for the rest of the year.
Hargreaves attends Microbial Metagenomics short-course
Hargreaves received scholarships to attend a two-week short course, “Microbial Metagenomics”, offered by Michigan State University at the Kellogg Biological Station in June 2009. The course was taught by eminent microbiologist Tom Schmidt and microbial ecologist Jay Lennon. Group projects centered around a gene in same pathway (denitrification) that is the focus of Hargreaves' research. Specifically, the students generated clone libraries and used metagenomics databases previously sequenced with 454 pyrosequencing to ask questions linking diversity of microbial communities to function (nitrous oxide emissions). A highlight of the course was the chance to work at the agricultural Long Term Ecological Research site (LTER), where students soil sampled for the group projects.
PhD Student, Chelsea Berns, receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship provides three years of support for graduate study leading to research-based master’s or doctoral degrees and is intended for students who are in the early stages of their graduate study. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) invests in graduate education for a cadre of diverse individuals who demonstrate their potential to successfully complete graduate degree programs in disciplines relevant to the mission of the National Science Foundation.
For more information, visit https://www.fastlane-beta.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do
PhD Student, Justin Rice, examines issues invovled in evolution education
Rice’s research is focused on understanding the issues involved in evolution education. Working with Dr. Jim Colbert, his primary focus has been to examine changes in understanding and attitude of undergraduate biology majors toward both evolutionary theory, and the nature of science. They have been interested in two primary questions: One, does students’ understanding of biological evolution change significantly with instruction? Two, what relationship exists between students’ theistic position and their understanding of evolution concepts? Future research will examine those same factors, but in subjects with higher levels of education, such as faculty. He is also heavily involved in teaching, having been a teaching assistant for the last 5 years.
Ph.D. Student Jeanine Refsnider studies climate change effects on painted turtles at Turtle Camp
Affectionately known by researchers as “Turtle Camp,” the Thomson Causeway Recreation Area in Thomson, IL, is a small island in the Mississippi River used for nesting by hundreds of painted turtles every summer. Research at Turtle Camp includes a long-term study on the ecology and evolution of sex ratio and sex-determining mechanisms in natural populations of turtles, including assessments of inheritance of these traits in nature and their sensitivity to climate change and human habitat modification.
Refsnider’s research focuses on the effect of climate change on sex ratios in painted turtles, and the extent to which plasticity in maternal nest-site selection can compensate for potential skews in sex ratios due to increasing environmental temperatures. In addition to working on the painted turtle nesting ecology project at Turtle Camp, Refsnider recently began a radio- telemetry project on a population of threatened ornate box turtles. This study examines the movement patterns and home range size of box turtles in native sand prairie, a rare habitat type in eastern Illinois