EEB Undergraduate Awards EEB Department Awards - Undergraduate Student Awards Below are the nominations received during the month of March for the categories involving EEB undergraduate 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 (Undergraduate) 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). Joanna Huntoon - President of the Naturalist Club Outstanding Undergraduate Please choose only ONE: Nominee exemplifies the best EEB has to offer the world in coursework or research or service (preferably all three) Rebecca Atkins - I have known Becca for a little over a year when she interviewed and was hired for a position as a Curation Technician at the TENN Herbarium. Becca also took my upper-level Field Botany course during Fall 2018. Becca was one of the top students in my Field Botany course. She consistently impressed me with her knowledge of the plant species. She is a fabulous field biologist! On our field trips, Becca was always paid close attention to my field-based lecture and diligently took notes under all conditions, from the sweltering humidity to soggy marshes. Becca is also a vital member of our herbarium team. During her two semesters working at the herbarium, she has demonstrated strong time management skills by weekly making time for both her work and classes. She has worked collaboratively with other students at the herbarium to mount and label 150 pressed plants in order to create scientific research specimens. Becca has a great eye for this task and her specimens are always arranged properly to access the plant material and aesthetically pleasing. Becca has also databased and georeferenced 280 specimens during her time working at the herbarium. She is far and above our best databaser with only a 15% error rate, whereas some students who do not pick up this task as quickly have error rates that are double Becca's. She has merged her passion for Japanese by focusing her databasing on bryophyte herbarium specimens from Japan. Recently she took the independent initiative to assemble a tips sheet for other members of our herbarium team focusing on how to more easily translate, database, and georeference these often challenging specimens. Becca is one of the best students I have had the privilege to work alongside. She is industrious, independent, trustworthy, and passionate about science! She ultimately plans to attend graduate school to continue to pursue her interests in organismal biology focusing on fungal ecology. I think she has great promise to contribute positively to our knowledge of the world and to inspire others to pursue science as a professional career. Lee Gore - Lee joined our lab as a volunteer in Fall 2017 after hearing an announcement in his genetics class that the Blum lab needed undergraduate research assistants. Seconds after class ended he rushed down to provide his contact info, and that enthusiasm has carried through everything he has done in the lab for the past two years. Ever since then, Lee has proven himself dependable, incredibly hard-working, and capable of tackling any task he is asked to complete. Lee has worked independently on a project in Summer 2018 extracting DNA from recalcitrant seeds of Olney's bulrush, succeeding in achieving high DNA yield despite numerous challenges and setbacks, and successfully perfecting DNA extraction protocols through trial and error. This, despite his never having done wet lab work before. His protocol supports a Blum lab NSF-funded project working on the Olney's bulrush seed bank, allowing seeds to be genotyped that failed to germinate. In addition, Lee was indispensable in assisting Jenn Summers in completing a work-intensive greenhouse experiment in which over 432 plants needed to be measured monthly. Lee learned the protocol quickly and took personal interest in ensuring the experiment's success, always willing to stay past his scheduled hours for a day and coming in on weekends to help measure and water. Lee also assisted in setting up Candice Lumibao's microbiome experiment, with careful attention to detail regarding labeling and ensuring materials were kept sterile. Clearly, Lee is a critical thinker, excellent at trouble-shooting problems and arriving at incredibly helpful solutions both in the lab and the greenhouse. For example, Lee also assisted in DNA extractions from leaf tissues, for which he took the initiative to research additional changes to protocols in order to increase DNA yield. Lee was also instrumental in assembling PVC pots for Summers' experiment, volunteering himself to purchase materials and helping to organize other undergraduates. Lee is also mature and knows his own limitations, which he communicates in order to overcome them and learn. For example, when Lee was first learning the protocol for propagating Olney's bulrush in the greenhouse, he insisted on going over the process multiple times to ensure he was doing it correctly and able to teach other undergraduates how to do the task. Lee demonstrates his ability as a leader by training and guiding younger undergraduate assistants both in performing lab work and with his insight from his time as an EEB major. Lee is preparing to attend UT Memphis for medical school in fall 2019, but his intellectual curiosity means that his work and his interests extend far beyond topics related to medicine. In addition to all his time working in the Blum lab, Lee is an outstanding student and a curious and intellectual person. He is genuinely interested in ecology and evolutionary biology, reading the papers our lab produces and asking insightful questions. Lee also regularly attends EEB seminars and has met with numerous visiting seminar speakers. Lee is also committed to service: he served as the philanthropy chair of his fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho, helping to raise $5,000 for St. Jude's Children's hospital. In sum, Lee is an outstanding EEB student. The Blum lab was very lucky to count him among our undergraduate assistants and he has a very bright future ahead of him. Vanessa "Rosy" Harpe - I have become well acquainted with Rosy over the past two years having taught her in an upper division Ecology and Evolutionary Biology field course and in undergraduate research. She is an excellent student – one of the best and most fun I have encountered the past several years. Rosy is one of the most enthusiastic undergrads I’ve met in a while. She can fill a room with her exuberance. I’m certain she’s going places after she completes her undergraduate degree this summer. Indeed, she literally travels a lot to explore life. I’m a bit familiar with her summer and otherwise travels to the Rocky Mountains and Hawaii, where she spent last summer. Mind you, she does not have family in these places. She’s just seeking to broaden her horizons. I do want to mention that Rosy led an effort – on her own accord with input from me – to database a large biological collection of mushroom-forming fungi collected by undergrads the past ten years. This amounted to databasing >1250 biological collections with georeference data. Rosy accomplished this feat with assistance from an award from the Hesler Endowment Fund, an application she wrote herself. Funds were used to support materials to house and re-organize the collections as the teaching collection for EEB351 (essentially, field mycology). Funds were also used to support molecular annotation of selected specimens that were unusual, difficult to identify to species or genus, or rare. Rosy was the leader on this project and rounded up assistance from other undergraduate students! This is why I believe Rosy stands out among most undergrads and has potential to be effective in environmental or other public policy or get involved in biology research in a graduate program. /// This is to nominate Rosy Harpe for the outstanding undergraduate award. I had her as a student in class (Introductory Plant Biology) and was somewhat familiar with her work for the greenhouse. I still see her on campus and she seems to be an active student. I don't know whether she has participated in research. This nomination is intended to be supplemental in case anyone else has submitted a nomination for her. Outstanding Undergraduate Research Please choose only ONE: Nominees must be undertaking an independent research project, have presented their work (any venue) and must be working on or have published a manuscript on the project. William Kirkpatrick - Will Kirkpatrick is among the top 1% of undergraduate students I have mentored in research, and it is with great enthusiasm that I nominate him for the Outstanding Undergraduate Research award. Will has been an active researcher in the Sheldon lab for several years and has played an instrumental role in developing new techniques and launching experiments. For his independent research, Will investigated how the breeding biology of dung beetles may be affected by climate change. Will set up an extensive microcosm field project, trapped and reared beetles (Phanaeus vindex), ran several cohorts through the experiment, analyzed all data in R, and is currently preparing his first lead author publication. Will secured $2,000 from the UTK office of Undergraduate Research to support this project and has presented his findings in a poster at UTK’s Discovery Day. In addition to his independent work, Will has contributed to a natural history manuscript on Gray-breasted Flycatchers (Lathrotriccus griseipectus). Will analyzed countless hours of recorded breeding behavior and co-authored a manuscript in Ornitología Neotropical. He presented the groups’ findings at the EEB Undergraduate Research Conference and at the EURēCA Conference. Most recently, Will presented a poster at UTK’s Nonprofit Day Symposium, where he represented the lab to share results from our first STEM summer program launched with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Fish and Wildlife Management. Will aims to continue using the skills he has developed at UTK to pursue a PhD and career in academia. Impressively, he has already secured a graduate research fellowship from one of his top graduate program choices. In summary, the skill and passion Will has shown for research is rare among undergraduate students and makes him a top candidate for this award. Undergraduate Award for Professional Promise Please choose only ONE: Nominee exemplifies exceptional professional promise and potential demonstrated by motivation, work ethic and independence in any aspect of coursework or research or science communication. Jamie Albert - Here I submit my nomination for Jamie Albert to be considered for the EEB Undergraduate Award for Professional Promise. In April 2016, Jamie contacted me directly as an undergraduate (Biology/EEB major) with experience and interest in seed dispersal ecology to pursue further opportunities in my lab. Even then, I could sense that this was not the “normal” inquiry; Jamie had conducted field work in Madagascar, and had a knowledge base that was well beyond the typical second-year student. Jamie was welcomed into my lab and connected well with all of its members (which included graduate students in EEB and in Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries). Jamie quickly gravitated towards working with insects, and myrmecochory (a specialized form of seed dispersal by ants) in particular. With training Jamie quickly learned to identify ants and assist with ongoing myrmecochory studies in the lab. Her work has contributed to an ‘in prep’ manuscript on ant an bee communities in bioenergy systems, as well as her own EEB undergraduate thesis work on the effects of ant seed-handling on myrmecochore seed mortality. More specifically on the latter front, Jamie was admitted to the highly-selective NSF REU program at University of Virginia’s Mountain Lake Biological Station in Summer 2018. In that capacity, Jamie studied the effects of ant seed-handling (and specifically the application of ant glandular secretions) on rodent-affiliated myrmecochore seed mortality. She has followed up that work in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 on the effects of those same ant-based chemicals and related ones on fungal seed mortality agents. This work is incredibly novel, and provides the foundation for Jamie’s EEB Honor’s Thesis (Effects of ant chemical secretions on deterring myrmecochore seed mortality agents). Throughout her stint in my lab, Jamie has shown the most incremental growth of any of my undergraduates, and her work is some of the most novel that I have observed at any level (graduate and postdoc levels included). She is about to present her findings at the Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting in Memphis (April 2019), at EURECA, and in the EEB Undergraduate Research Symposium. Jamie has her eyes set on gaining at least another year of research experience before applying to a graduate program. I am more confident with Jamie than with any of my previous undergraduates about her ability to be successful in her goal of advancing the field of ecology. I am so proud of Jamie’s accomplishments, and am convinced of the promise of her future success. /// Jamie is an exceptional student. She worked with me last summer as an NSF REU student and has continued work with me for her honors thesis. She's also a student in my class. Jamie approaches all work with thoughtfulness and good scientific intuition. She is reliable, dedicated and has more perseverance and resilience than anyone else that I've worked with. She aspires to continue her education in a graduate program. It's been a privilege working with her. Vanessa "Rosy" Harpe - Rosy is one of the most enthusiastic and engaged undergraduate students I have had the pleasure to work with during my academic career and I think she is highly deserving of this award. I met Rosy over two years ago when I gave her Introduction to Plant Biology class a tour of the herbarium and then the class carried out a project making their own plant collections. Rosy went above and beyond the requirements of the project and approached me about learning to identify her moss collection to species. She demonstrated patience and perseverance during the process of identifying her collection. Rosy carefully examined the plants under the microscope to find key features and looked up many new terms to understand the descriptions in the identification book. After over an hour of work she arrived at the species, Barbula unguiculata. Her ability to maintain a positive attitude even in the face of challenges is infectious and will serve her well as she continues her professional pursuits. Rosy then applied for and was offered a position in Fall of 2017 as a Herbarium Curation Technician in our plant biodiversity collection. I served as her direct supervisor for this position. Rosy was a vital member of a collaborative project to curate over 3,000 liverwort plant specimens collected by the botanist Dr. Marie Hicks. This project entailed repackaging, relabeling, and transcribing often difficult to decipher cursive script, so that these specimens could be added to our collections. Rosy dedicated a significant amount of time to this project and ultimately successfully processed over 550 specimens. The other techs consistently expressed their admiration for Rosy's reliable work ethic and collegiality. She demonstrated strong communication skills that enabled the work to be coordinated and delegated smoothly between herself and four other students. Rosy is also a highly creative and talented artist. She is in charge of designing and painting the art for the herbarium sign that is placed on the sidewalk outside our building daily. Rosy leads brainstorming sessions in collaboration with other student technicians to come up with catchy phrases and illustrations to encourage members of the campus community to stop by to see our collection. They are always fun and showcase Rosy’s abilities in science communication and puns, as an example one sign read, “Have questions? Stop by the herbarium. Plants have all the anthers”. Rosy assisted me on a herbarium research data collection trip to two internationally recognized plant biodiversity collections. She traveled with myself, my social scientist research collaborator from a primarily undergraduate institution, and fellow University of Tennessee – Knoxville student to the New York Botanical Garden Herbarium and the Smithsonian National Herbarium in Washington DC for an 8-day research trip in December 2017. Prior to the trip, she completed Institutional Review Board (IRB) training for safely and ethically conducting social science research with people. She conducted herself professionally during all of our interviews and interactions with researchers at these institutions, demonstrating her understanding of the guidelines for undertaking this type of research. She quickly understood our plans and experimental design for sampling and inventorying the different storage methods used at each botanical institution. Rosy's notes, both in her notebook and entered into our shared datasheet, were meticulous and I am confident that she collected quality data for this research project. She was never afraid to ask questions to increase her clarity around instructions, which significantly increased her productivity and effectiveness with the work. Rosy was an integral member of this project and we could not have accomplished our research tasks as efficiently and effectively without her energies. Additionally, Rosy was one of the top students in my upper-level Field Botany course during the Fall 2018 semester. She was constantly asking astute questions about the role botanists play in the conservation of rare plants and the impact of invasive species on the native ecosystems of Tennessee. Her ability to make connections between the course material, her fungal research, and her personal experiences in nature provided insightful additions to class discussions. She is a fabulous field biologist and was constantly asking questions about species beyond the material we had covered in class to continue to make connections between the plants and their surrounding environments. I have mentored 12 students during my previous positions as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of California - Davis. I have also supervised 17 students during my time as a tenure-track faculty at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville. These students have gone on to graduate studies at top institutions and on to research positions in the biotech industry. Rosy is far and above one of the top students I have had the privilege to work alongside. She is industrious, passionate, and creative! She ultimately plans to attend graduate school to continue to pursue her interests in organismal biology and environmental sustainability. I think she has great promise to contribute positively to our knowledge of the world and to inspire others to pursue science as a professional career. Dailee Metts - Dailee joined the lab in the fall of 2017 after having worked very well in the Bailey-Schweitzer lab. She has a long and devoted commitment to work in the sciences: after starting as a forestry major, Dailee switched to EEB out of personal interest in the rigor and science. She has worked on a publication in the Bailey lab on Populus, worked on an independent research project focused on stimulating germination in the Blum lab and, since graduating in Dec 2018, has gone on to pursue a Master's degree at UT working on introduced elk populations. Dailee is invested, engaged, and skilled at her work in the lab. She is meticulous and works to ensure that she fully understands a protocol to the point of being able to explain to others. She kept careful track of her summer project, which involved exposing recalcitrant seeds of Olney's bulrush to various treatments in order to stimulate germination. She came in on weekends to water plants and monitored germination religiously. She also helped with Summers' greenhouse experiment and implementing Candice Lumibao's research. Dailee always worked hard, done well in her classes, and was extremely reliable for our lab. Chandler Petty - This is to nominate Chandler Petty for undergraduate Professional Promise. Chandler was a student in 3 different classes, and I wrote letters for her for dental school. My understanding is that she has been admitted. Chandler was an excellent student - bright, interactive, and curious. She was highly motivated with her choice of dentistry for her career, and she is a likely to succeed. A great example of how EEB can provide a home for a preprofessional student. Casey Richards - Casey is a mature student, who joined us after his time with Naval Special Forces. He recently transferred into EEB for his major. Casey currently works with three different research labs. He works with my group, the Spatial Analysis Lab under Mona's direction and a lab over in EPP. Casey's roles and responsibilities with these different groups varies - some times he is involved in primary research and sometimes in administration and managing research. The title of this award is Professional Promise and Casey certainly typifies that. Casey is organized, diligent and reliable. Time and again, Casey has proven himself to be an independent problem solver. In organizing his studies and degree and thinking about his future career direction, Casey is thoughtful and strategic. He has an excellent career path ahead of him and shows tremendous professional promise.