EEB Graduate Awards EEB Department Awards - Graduate Student Awards Below are the nominations received during the month of March for the categories involving EEB graduate students. Please vote for one person in each category, then click submit. Winners will be announced at the May 10th EEB Awards. Outstanding Outreach & Community Service (Graduate) Please choose only ONE: Nominees go above and beyond to advocate for EEB-related issues to the public in any medium or venue (e.g., working with Darwin Day organizers, K-12 outreach or any other advocacy positions on EEB subjects). Amanda Hyman - Amanda is a great champion for diversity and inclusivity. Despite still being a first year in our program, Amanda is already helping to change the culture of the department and our campus. To illustrate, Amanda stepped up to serve on the departmental diversity committee; she volunteered to serve in the Graduate Student Senate and is co-leading a workshop this summer on how faculty and graduate students in STEM fields can foster more inclusive learning environments. Listing committee work does not do things justice. Change does not come from committees. It comes from people, from their leadership and from their example and Amanda is exactly the type of change agent that EEB and the wider campus community needs. Claire Winfrey, Mali Hubert, Clara Howell - Darwin Day is a major outreach effort of the department, and this year it was shepherded by these three students. It was especially difficult because other departments stepped back a bit, so the pool of volunteers, and passed on expertise, was lower than in other years. Despite these obstacles, these students got funding, arranged for a good speaker, advertised, collaborated with the McClung, and created a successful Darwin Day. Amanda Benoit, Mali Hubert, Chloe Lash - EEB Mentoring Coordinators have grown the program and have been very involved with matching undergraduate and graduate students. Many wonderful comments have been made from undergraduates about the program. Best Progress Towards Dissertation Please choose only ONE: Nominees have shown exceptional progress in their research, as measured by publications, grants awarded, and public presentations. Students will have already advanced to candidacy. Kendall Beals - Kendall is in her 6th semester and has done the following great things (see below). She is bright, incredibly hard-working, has been training herself in multiple molecular and stats techniques, has published 2 papers already (2 more in prep to realistically be submitted summer/fall), has been presenting her work at regional and national conferences, has won 5 grants to support her work, is an outstanding lab and departmental citizen and cares deeply about EEB. She is taking her comp exams 5 April and is very deserving of this award. Thanks for considering! Publications: - Ware, I.M., Fitzpatrick, C.R., Senthilnathan, A., Bayliss, S.L.J., Beals, K.K., Mueller, L.O., Summers, J.L., Wooliver, R.C., Van Nuland, M.E., Kinnison, M.T., Palkovacs, E.P., Schweitzer, J.A., Bailey, J.K. (2018). Feedbacks link ecosystem ecology and evolution across spatial and temporal scales: Empirical evidence and future directions. Functional Ecology, 33: 31-42. - Kivlin, S.N., Lynn, J.S., Kazenel, M.R., Beals, K.K., Rudgers, J.A. (2017). Biogeography of plant-associated fungal symbionts in mountain ecosystems: A meta-analysis. Diversity and Distributions, 23:1067-1077. Presentations: - *Beals, K.K., Schweitzer, J.A., Bailey, J.K. 2019. Understanding Chimney Tops 2 wildfire from the ground up: functional response of plant-soil interactions to fire. Great Smoky Mountains National Park Science Colloquium, Gatlinburg, TN. - *Beals, K.K., Schweitzer, J.A., Bailey, J.K. 2018. Hidden players of plant function: the role of the soil microbiome on plant phenotype. Ecological Society of America, New Orleans, LA. Funding: -2019 Hesler Herbarium Student Research Award, University of Tennessee. DNA barcoding to identify the influence of fire and urbanization on Solidago spp. distribution and performance ($1,100) -2018 Ecological, Evolutionary, and Conservation Genomics Award, American Genetic Association. Identifying the drivers of plant functional traits through exploration of the soil microbiome ($9,927) -2018 Graduate Student Training Fellowship, Torrey Botanical Society. Studying the drivers of plant functional trait diversity through genomic analysis of the rootassociated microbial environment ($1,000) -2018 Student/Faculty Research Award, University of Tennessee. Does soil microbiome mediate plant functions across environmental gradients? Co-PI: Jennifer Schweitzer ($4,800) -2017 Hesler Herbarium Student Research Award, University of Tennessee. Determining effects of plant-microbial soil feedbacks on plant function using Solidago (Asteraceae) from eastern Tennessee ($500) Jordan Bush - Jordan undertook a complicated field experiment with introduced and native anoles, entailing large exclosures at the UTK Arboretum, and this was to get behavioral interaction data to construct both social and spatial networks and analyze these mathematically. With undergraduate helpers, she got massive data with these exclosures and is well into the analysis, already depicting interesting patterns. She also is working with Sue Riechert on social interaction data in a spider to construct and analyze an interaction network. She managed while doing this to publish an important paper on anole territoriality and the correct definition of territoriality, which relates to part of her dissertation research. Jordan has managed not to slow down in the least, at least to my perception, despite having given birth to a baby boy almost a year ago and now being pregnant again. She is on schedule to finish in one more year, has been constructing a postdoc proposal, and will in the end have several good publications from her dissertation. Miranda Chen - Miranda Chen is a PhD Candidate who has demonstrated extraordinary progress toward her dissertation in just the last three years. For her dissertation research, she conducted a difficult longitudinal research design where she collected survey and interview (N = 23) data every semester for 18 months to probe graduate student perceptions of teaching and research anxiety. She has completed this data collection and is currently conducting her data analysis and writing her results. She just produced the best first draft of a dissertation chapter I have ever received - it will be submitted soon. In addition to this research, she has demonstrated research excellence by publishing six journal articles and one technical evaluation report over the last three years (she has been volunteering at NISER to learn project evaluation skills), presenting seven posters or oral presentations on her UT research, and delivering one invited talk. Last year, she won the best graduate student presentation at our national professional meeting, and she is a Chancellor’s Fellow and Shipley-Swann Graduate School Fellowship Winner. She has mentored three undergraduates to assist with her data analysis. Within our professional organization, she is the co-director of the Discipline-based Education Researchers Scholars-in-Training Group. Miranda is demonstrating excellent progress in all aspects of her professional career. Jacob Moutouama - Jacob Moutouaman is an international student, probably the first our department had from Africa. In a short time, Jacob was able to adjust to the new demand of our PhD program while applying for funding and developing his PhD project. He recently received ($14 000) funding from the British Ecological Society to conduct fieldwork for his dissertation. Additionally, he has applied for funding from the International Foundation for Science ($12 000) and many other here at UTK. At this point, Jacob has developed proposals for all the chapters of his dissertation and ready to travel to his field sites in Africa to collect the first set of data for his PhD. Outstanding Dissertation Please choose only ONE: Nominees will have produced their PhD within the past 1.5 years, or be within the final semester of their degree (including summer). An outstanding PhD is one that has already had an impact on the student’s field, or that has great potential to have such an impact. Evidence of impact would be publication(s) in an internationally-recognized journal, presentations at prominent meetings (especially if invited), grant proposals awarded based on the research, or indications from letter writers that the work has been or will affect his/her research community. Sam Borstein - Sam's dissertation has four chapters. One addresses rates of evolution and tests key hypotheses about how trophic level influences them. This has been published already in Nature Ecology and Evolution, and profiled in places such as Natural History Magazine. Another chapter addresses the idea of pharyngeal jaws as a key innovation, something that has been accepted for over forty years. To address this, Sam created a phylogeny of over 10,000 fish species, dated it, and ran cutting edge methods to address this question, and found there was no evidence to support it. He's aiming to submit this chapter to Nature. He could easily have sliced these into two to three chapters each, but kept them in tight manuscript form. He has two other chapters on R packages: one for getting mitochondrial data in usable forms for phylogenetics, which has been published in PeerJ, and another to infer trophic level from available databases. Sam also has intense natural history knowledge of fish, something that infuses his work and which he most assuredly, but sadly, did not get from me. There's also a large set of collaborative work he is not including in his dissertation, such as work with Liam Mueller on mass spec data and work with collaborators outside UT on cichlid extinction (Sam was second author on the paper, which was published in Science). Liam Mueller - Liam has persevered to overcome a number of large hurdles to complete this dissertation, including major experimental failures, changing plant species/systems and personal hardship and loss. In the end he has an outstanding dissertation that combines his main scientific passions - chemistry, statistics and ecology. His work examines the mechanisms and statistical approaches for metabolomic linkages between plants and soils. This is an area in which only a handful of papers have addressed under tightly controlled conditions that possess very little inference for the natural world. His work expands metabolomic studies to understand the realities of plant genetic variation across a large environmental selection gradient to examine how variation among plant populations alter plant root and rhizosphere soil metabolomes. Using novel statistical and experimental approaches he has shown that plant populations and those evolved differences correspond to soil metabolomes, providing a mechanism for plant-soil feedback studies in eco-evo dynamics. During the course of these studies he applied a unique stable isotope tracer to this question, designed code to translate/collate mass spec outputs, has written a review of multi-variate statistical methods to properly analyses data such as these (chemists to date use very primitive analyses that do not adequately make use of the very large complex datasets that emerge from such studies). The review used his own data to show assumptions of 7 different approaches, hypothesis testing possibilities for each and provide a template for 'best practices' in multi-variate analysis of metabolomic data. He has published three papers during his time in EEB, has another paper in review and will be submitting two others in the coming year. I expect this research to be highly cited and make significant waves in the soil metabolomic world. At the same time Liam made significant contributions to teaching in EEB, including 5 semesters of TAing Biotstats, and is an outstanding Departmental citizen and advocate. Thanks for considering! Todd Pierson - Todd has always been an exceptional graduate student. I say this as a member of his cohort, as an admirer of his work for the past five years, and as one of his best friends. Todd defended his dissertation on the organization of genetic and behavioral diversity in the two-lined salamander species complex this week, and gave one of the best exit seminars I have seen in my time at UTK. His dissertation is complex, but elegant, and combines his inherent love for his study organisms with his impressive array of field, laboratory, and statistical skills. Much of his dissertation work, and many side projects he took on as a graduate student have been published. His work has resolved some long-standing (as in, decades!) misconceptions about the taxonomic organization of the Eurycea genus, and has shed light on a potentially novel intraspecific reproductive behavioral forms within the genus. Having been Todd's friend for many years, I have witnessed how well-respected he is within the herpetology and evolutionary biology communities, and I know there are great things awaiting him in the future. Todd deserves to be acknowledged by the Department for his commitment to a fantastic dissertation project. Outstanding Publication by a Graduate Student Please choose only ONE: Nominees will have published the paper in a prominent general-audience journal, or if in a more field-specific journal then there should be evidence that the paper will have substantial impact on the field. Work should have been largely initiated and carried out by the student. Sam Borstein - Samuel R. Borstein et al, Reef fish functional traits evolve fastest at trophic extremes, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0725-x Excellent, innovative paper published in a top journal. Advances the science in the field of trophic macroevolution and macroecology. Casey Coomes - Casey published an excellent manuscript this year. Her study provides the first experimental test of the hypothesis that sub-lethal heat stress affects endotherm behavior. Specifically, she tested how heat stress affects species recognition in a well-studied avian species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). A few recent studies have addressed the effects of heat stress in this species (Hurley, McDiarmid, Friesen, Griffith, & Rowe, 2018; Mariette & Buchanan, 2016). She found that female zebra finches who typically discriminate between conspecific and heterospecific mating songs no longer do so while under heat stress. This loss of preference for conspecific songs while under heat stress could translate into significant fitness consequences in the wild. Her study demonstrates that heat stress affects female preference for a mating signal, and provides a foundation for future studies to address this overlooked aspect of climate change effects on animals. Coomes, CM, RM Danner, and EP Derryberry. 2019. Elevated temperatures reduce discrimination between conspecific and heterospecific sexual signals. Animal Behaviour 147:9—15. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.10.024 Rachel Fovargue - [Rachel Fovargue graduated from EEB in August 2017. I wanted to nominate a paper that arose from her thesis that came out in Fall/Winter 2018. Rachel is currently a post-doc at U Oklahoma.] Fovargue, R., Fisher, M., Harris, J., Armsworth, P.R. 2019. A landscape of conservation philanthropy for US land trusts. Conservation Biology, 33, 176-184. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/15231739 Practical ways to increase funding and support for conservation are urgently needed. In a case study of what explains philanthropic giving to The Nature Conservancy, Rachel identifies communities across the US that are primed to provide increased support for conservation. These communities provide obvious targets for campaigns aimed to increase conservation funding – additional funding that Rachel's analyses suggests would run to hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, Rachel's approach would be readily exportable to other organizations and contexts, building as it does on data that conservation organizations routinely manage and statistical techniques well-known to ecologists. As such, Rachel's approach has great potential for empowering conservation philanthropy teams around the globe. Her paper is an outstanding example of applied research led by EEB graduate students that can matrerially improve the plight of biodiversity. Rachel's co-authors on the paper include conservation philanthropy practitioners. Ian Ware - Ian has two great papers this year. One in Global Change Biology (Climate Driven reduction in genetic variation for phenology alters soil communities and nutrient pools) and one in Functional Ecology (Feedbacks Link Ecosystem Ecology and evolutionary biology across spatial and temporal scales). Either would be great, but the GCB has gotten good press and is probably the first paper to connect evolution to ecosystem change at scales relevant to climate change. I think it is the best integration of what our department does and would be a great acknowledgement for Ian, who has been a tremendous student and departmental citizen. Ware, I.M., C.R. Fitzpatrick, A. Senthilnathan, S.L.J. Bayliss, K.K. Beals, L.O. Mueller, J.L. Summers, R.C. Wooliver, M.E. Van Nuland, M.T. Kennison, E.P. Palkovacs, J.A. Schweitzer & J.K. Bailey. 2019. Feedbacks link ecosystem ecology and evolution across spatial and temporal scales: empirical evidence and future directions. Functional Ecology 33:31-42. Ware, I.M., M.E. Van Nuland, J.A. Schweitzer, Z. Yang, C.W. Schadt, L.C. Sidak-Loftis, N.E. Stone, J.D. Busch, D.M. Wagner, & J.K. Bailey. 2019. Evolution due to climate warming alters the linkage between genes and ecosystems. Global Change Biology (in press): doi: 10.1111/gcb.14553 Ian has published two significant papers this spring that make strong contributions to the field of eco-evolutionary dynamics (a growing field to understanding the linkages and feedbacks between ecology and evolution). The 1st paper is a review for a Special Feature on eco-evo dynamics where he outlined the evidence in multiple systems to identify where and under what conditions eco-evo feedbacks should be expected to occur. He outlined a conceptual model that should guide eco-evo research for years to come. The 2nd paper in Global Change Biology is an empirical test of that model entailing empirical work from 25 sites around the western U.S. (AZ to MT) to quantify and show selection across a huge environmental gradient that affects how strongly plants can influence their soils and thus sequester soil carbon, and other ecosystem services. It is one the first empirical papers of its kind to examine the eco-evo linkages across that large of a geographic scale. I expect both papers to be highly cited. Thanks for considering! Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student Please choose only ONE: Nominees will have demonstrated strong teaching impact. Evidence might be in the form of written evaluations from faculty, lecturers, or students, including strong teaching evaluations from students. Nominees will have gone above and beyond their normal teaching duties in reaching undergraduate and/or graduate students, sometimes in creative ways. Chloe Lash - I enthusiastically nominate Chloe Lash, a Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student in my lab, for the EEB Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student Award. Chloe has showcased her teaching abilities ever since her arrival at University of Tennessee in 2015. At the outset of her tenure as a Program for Excellence & Equity in Research (PEER) Fellow, she gained valuable training and experience in mentoring that started her down a path that has consistently led to synergistic interactions with a wide diversity of undergraduates. Even before gaining experience as a graduate teaching assistant in Fall 2017, Chloe had spent two years mentoring undergraduates in a variety of capacities. She trained University of Tennessee undergraduates in ant identification in my lab, and spent two summers mentoring several National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) students at the University of Virginia’s Mountain Lake Biological Station (MLBS). The latter students worked on aspects of Chloe’s dissertation interests in a unique form of seed dispersal by ants. Chloe has continued her MLBS mentoring to the present day, and she and her students have begun to present their data at national meetings.Chloe’s experience with students in the classroom has been outstanding. Her approachability and her ability to connect with students made this transition seamless. She performed excellently in her roles as a teaching assistant for the Honors section of the introductory biology lecture (BIOL 158), as well as biology literacy (BIOL 150). Most pertinent to this award, her performance as the instructor of record for the Honors section of the introductory biology laboratory (BIOL 167) in Fall 2018 (where she had primary responsibility for teaching and assigning grades) has truly shown her innate desire to foster curiosity and have her students attain their learning outcomes. I can only marvel at her post-course evaluations in BIOL 167; her scores for items pertaining to instructor contribution, creating a positive and helpful atmosphere, creating a positive learning environment, and providing relevant feedback were as close to a perfect 5.0 as I have ever seen for any instructor. Items affiliated with the course were scored just as high by her students; and I know that that is a reflection of Chloe’s investment in the construction and follow-through of the course’s activities. Chloe recently told me that one of her most rewarding experiences as an instructor in BIOL 167 was when a quiet student came out of their shell during one of their first field-based laboratories and mentioned to her how much they enjoyed the course, not just the outdoor aspects, but the challenges therein. Seeing multiple written comments from students articulating how knowledgeable and helpful Chloe was in guiding them towards their learning outcomes is honestly inspirational. I am extremely lucky to currently have Chloe in my own class this semester (Plant-animal Interactions, EEB 426) as a teaching assistant. I know she will empower students and get them to put their best effort forward, not just in my class, but in her future career. Chloe has aspirations to be a faculty member at a small liberal arts college, and I am convinced that she is already prepared to help students become successful in their aspirations as well. I give her my highest recommendation for the award. Liam Mueller - I give my strongest possible recommendation at Liam Mueller, my TA for the last three years in both my graduate and undergraduate statistics course (EEB 411 & 560), be considered for the Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching award. Liam has consistently performed above expectations; always makes himself available to students, holding longer than required office hours, and frequently conducting additional study-sessions. Liam’s primary professional goal is to teach at a smaller, liberal arts school. He is interested in pedagogy and course development, going out of his way to participate in workshops aimed at improving his ability as an instructor. We meet weekly to discuss the course(s), adaptively changing lectures or exercises accordingly. He has been integral in developing course materials, including a workbook containing lectures and annotated computer code that we anticipate will be given to future classes in lieu of purchasing a textbook.