Deadline Date: October 11, 2019, Noon
Award Recipient Announcement: October 28, 2019
The recipient of the 2019-2020 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Samantha Bock. Samantha conducts her doctoral research under the direction of Dr. Benjamin Parrott, The Eugene P. Odum School of Ecology. Samantha will use Laerm funds to test the potential of using molecular markers as a consistent, reliable, and non-lethal approach to monitoring sex ratios in American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) hatchlings. Sex ratios of alligators and other crocodilians are governed by temperature, so that climate change is expected to alter sex ratios in these populations. If this method is successful, it has the potential to be an important conservation tool for managing threatened and endangered crocodilian species experiencing environmental change.
The other recipient of the 2019-2020 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Margot Popecki. Margot conducts her doctoral research under the direction of Dr. Kathrin Stanger-Hall, Department of Plant Biology, and Dr. John Wares, Department of Genetics. Margot will use Laerm funds to study the genetic basis for mating signals in big dipper fireflies (Photinus pyralis). Fireflies emit flashes of green or yellow bioluminescent light to attract mates. Her work combines field studies, genetic analysis, and bioinformatics to study how they produce and receive these visual signals. Firefly abundance is declining and this research may clarify the roles of ambient light and urbanization on firefly reproduction rates and migration patterns.
The recipient of the 2014-2015 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Shannon Curry. Shannon conducts her doctoral research under the direction of Dr. Sonia Hernandez, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. Shannon is interested in the impact of urbanization and landscape alteration on the white ibis (Eudocimus albus). These birds increasingly forage in urban environments, which may influence the birds? health and disease susceptibility. Laerm funds will be used to cover the costs of supplies for stable nitrogen and carbon isotope analysis of plasma and fecal samples to detect variations in nitrogen and carbon signatures that may reflect time spent foraging in urban locations and consumption of anthropogenic food supplementation instead of continuing to forage in wild habitats.
One of the two recipients of the 2013-2014 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Amanda Holland. Amanda conducts her master's research under the direction of Dr. James C. Beasley, Savannah River Ecology Lab, and Dr. Robert Warren, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. She is interested in molecular sex-determination of black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in order to compare seasonal movement rates, home range sizes, and resource use of male and female vultures at the Savannah River Site, Aiken, South Carolina. These are understudied species despite black vultures being ranked the second and turkey vultures ranked the fourth most hazardous species to civil aircraft in the US. Laerm funds will be used to cover the costs of DNA laboratory supplies.
The other recipient of the 2013-2014 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Sean Sterrett. Sean conducts his doctoral research under the direction of Dr. John Maerz, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. His research focuses on the contributions of freshwater turtles in energy and nutrient dynamics (ecosystem services). The unique skeletal structure of turtles and their long lifespan may contribute to their role in altering the availability and recycling of freshwater nutrients, but this aspect of turtles is poorly studied. Sean plans to use the Laerm funds to visit museums including the Smithsonian Institution and the Florida Museum of Natural, to measure the skeletal mass of turtle specimens curated in the osteological collections at these institutions.
The recipient of the 2012-13 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Linsey Haram. Linsey is conducting her doctoral research under the direction of Dr. James E. Byers, Odum School of Ecology. Linsey is investigating the effects of an invasive species, red seaweed (Gracilaria vermiculophylla), on the structure, function, and natural history of southeastern estuarine ecosystems, specifically on detrital pathways in the maintenance of estuaries. Her objectives are to determine which species consume Gracilaria, the physiological effects of that consumption, and how this invasive seaweed might change estuarine trophic structures of southeastern mudflats. Laerm funds will be used for supplies and travel.
The recipient of the 2011 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Rachel Katz. Rachel is conducting her doctoral research under the direction of Dr. Mary Freeman, US Geological Survey. Rachel is investigating the natural history of stream fishes and how hydrologic processes affect dispersal, connectivity, and population persistence within and among tributary systems. She is examining the genetics of the yellowfin shiner (Notropis lutipinnis) to explore the population structure of this non-migratory fish and the relative importance of distance, topology, geomorphology, stream flow, migration, and gene flow on this fish within the Upper Flint River Basin, Georgia. The objective is to determine how populations persist despite hydrologic variability and fragmentation.
The recipient of the 2010 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Paige Barlow. Paige is conducting her research under the direction of Dr. Jeff Hepinstall-Cymerman, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Paige is investigating the effects of land use on birds in Macon County, North Carolina. The high rate of amenity-driven development in this county is threatening the rural culture and rich biodiversity of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot. The objectives of her study are to collect data on the presence and absence of birds in the county, relate these to land use and land cover, and work with stakeholders to develop guidelines that meet both human and wildlife objectives. Her work will involve stakeholders in order to increase the public's understanding of and confidence in the research to encourage local support of the land use recommendations.
The recipient of the 2009 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Jayna DeVore, who will conduct her study under the direction of Dr. John Maerz, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Jayna will test the hypothesis that grass invasion in terrestrial ecosystems alters predation rates among invertebrate predators, in this case by increasing the density of spiders that prey on amphibians, reducing amphibian survivorship. She will be studying the interaction of Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass), Bufo americanus (American toad), and lycosid spiders, an invertebrate predator. The grass may affect toad survivorship by enabling spider densities to increase. She will conduct field tests of her hypothesis at the Whitehall Experimental Forest.
The recipient of the 2008 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Carrie Straight. Carrie conducts her research under the direction of Dr. Mary C. Freeman, Odum School of Ecology, and Dr. Bud Freeman, Director of the Georgia Museum of Natural History. She will study the condition of gravel in the Oconee, Savannah, and Broad rivers to determine whether changes in bed sediments are associated with spawning success of the robust redhorse (Moxostoma robustum) in these rivers. Addressing this question is an essential step in estimating the long-term viability of the robust redhorse in these locations.
Two students share the 2007 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students. James A. Robertson, Department of Entomology, will conduct his research under the direction of Dr. Joseph McHugh. He will attempt to decipher species within the Dastarcus elophoroides species complex. This beetle is a good candidate to serve as a biological control agent of several pest species which cause considerable damage both in the United States and elsewhere; but it must first be determined whether this is a single species or several to ensure that the correct species is used to control the appropriate pest. To accomplish this study, James will examine mtDNA to delimit the species which might be hidden by current taxonomy.
The second recipient of the 2007 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Carol E. Colaninno, Department of Anthropology, who studies with Dr. Elizabeth J. Reitz. Carol will use oxygen isotope signatures in the growth increments of otoliths from hardhead catfish (Ariopsis felis) to predict paleotemperatures of the mid-Holocene environment. These calcium carbonate structures in catfish record water temperatures experienced by these fish during their lives. The study will enable Carol to correlate how environmental change, specifically fluctuating temperatures and rising sea levels, affected coastal resources and human use of these on a Georgia sea island between 4500-3000 B.P.
The recipient of the 2006 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Scott Small, Department of Genetics, who will conduct his research under the direction of Dr. John Wares. Scott will examine study freshwater mussel communities of the Altamaha River using genetic data (mtDNA markers and microsatellites) as well as morphological characteristics to resolve taxonomic issues in these mussels which will aid in the conservation of these animals. The purpose of his project is to provide a unique resource encompassing both morphological and genetic variation for the mussel community in the river. The results will be submitted to Genbank and specimens will be curated at the Georgia Museum of Natural History. This proposal represents an outstanding example of creative natural history research and the Georgia Museum of Natural History is pleased to contribute to its support.
The recipient of the 2005 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Lee Echols, Department of Plant Biology, who will conduct his research under the direction of Dr. Wendy Zomlefer. Lee will study the flora and vegetation patterns of remnant blackland prairies in central Georgia. The study will provide a floristic inventory and quantitative analysis of prairie vegetation. This information will be used to guide land acquisition initiatives, restoration plans, and search for other blackland prairies in Georgia. This information will provide documentation to protect and restore this globally imperiled, rare community; one which has never been formally studied in Georgia. Voucher specimens will be curated in the Georgia Herbarium. This proposal represents an outstanding example of creative natural history research and the Georgia Museum of Natural History is pleased to contribute to its support.
The recipient of the 2004 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Rachel Spigler, Department of Plant Biology, who will conduct her research under the direction of Drs. Shumei Chang and Stephen Hubbell. Rachel studies the effects of population size and density on reproductive success in the herb Sabatia angularis L. (Gentianaceae) in Georgia and North Carolina. The study will add to the growing body of knowledge concerning the relationships among population size, density, inbreeding, plant performance and population growth. The study will contribute empirical data on the effect of inbreeding in wild populations which will be of interest to conservation biologists interested in inbreeding and the effects of genetic erosion on population dynamics of species of critical concern. This proposal represents an outstanding example of creative natural history research and the Georgia Museum of Natural History is pleased to contribute to its support.
The recipient of the 2003 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Scott Markwith, Department of Geography, who conducts his research under the direction of Dr. Kathleen C. Parker. Scott will use the funds to purchase restriction enzymes for use in his study of gene flow in the emergent aquatic macrophyte Hymenocallis coronoaria, the shoals spider lily. The shoals spider lily is an aquatic plant that occurs in shoal habitats in piedmont streams from Alabama to South Carolina but is absent from the middle portion of its range. The plant may be absent from a portion of its range because of habitat characteristics and land-use history. This project will not only explore gene flow in aquatic environments but will also provide information about the environmental needs of this rare plant that will be valuable to resource managers of the states in which it occurs.
The recipient of the 2002 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Graduate Students is Arlena M. Wartell, Institute of Ecology, to conduct research under the direction of Dr. H. Ronald Pulliam. The funds will enable her to conduct fine-scale genetic analysis of the federally endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus. Her research will provide information on the genetic structure, diversity, and gene flow of these populations needed to test hypotheses about Pleistocene biogeography, fragmented population structure, and the effects of landscape factors on genetic connectivity. She will be using museum specimens to establish a historical perspective on the genetic structure of these animals. The results of her research will enable management strategies to incorporate gene flow patterns for this species.
Karen E. Francl, Warnell School of Forest Resources, received funds to conduct research under the direction of Dr. Steven B. Castleberry. The funds will support her on-going small animal survey and habitat characterization of central Appalachian wetlands. Her field work focuses on bogs and fens in eastern and north-central West Virginia. Francl is examining vegetation structure, basic hydrology, and soil profiles in order to relate these characteristics to small animal communities. She requested funds to analyze 130 soil samples from her study sites in order to further characterize the wetland habitat. The Award will also enable Francl to present the results of her research at the 12th Annual Colloquium on Conservation of Mammals in the Southeastern United States.
Eva B. Gonzales, Department of Botany, is studying with Dr. James Hamrick. She requested funds to measure genetic diversity contained within populations of a rare plant species, Trillium reliquum. This is part of a larger study in which she will attempt to identify populations of this trillium that can be used as sources of material for restoration purposes. Combined genetic and demographic information will assist in the development of a comprehensive conservation plan for this rare plant. Gonzales will use the funds to conduct allozyme analysis of sampled populations using starch gel electrophoresis.
Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Department of Anthropology, is studying with Dr. Stephen Kowalewski. He requested support to establish a radiometric chronology of mound construction at Kolomoki. Kolomoki is one of the largest and most impressive Native American archaeological sites in the United States and is part of the Georgia State Park system. The results of this study will enhance interpretation of this important public site at Kolomoki Mounds State Historical Park as well as improve our understanding of human life in southwest Georgia. The Award will enable Pluckhahn to have two carbon samples from Kolomoki dated.
The graduate award in 2000 was to Lisa Marie Kruse, a doctoral student in the Department of Botany, studying with Dr. David Giannasi. Her proposal was to conduct a floristic survey along the main corridor of the Upper Etowah River in Lumpkin, Dawson, and Cherokee counties. There has been no comprehensive survey of the flora of the Upper Etowah River or of the counties it transects. The results will be an important contribution to the Georgia Plant Atlas being prepared by the Botanical Herbarium. The resulting descriptions of the species diversity patterns in the riparian zone of the Etowah River will also assist with planning conservation strategies along the river. The funds requested supported travel to the field site, supplies, and the purchase of reference books.
Two graduate proposals received support during the 1999 cycle. One of these was prepared by Anthony Fiumera, a doctoral student in Genetics studying with Dr. Marjorie Asmussen. Mr. Fiumera's proposal was titled" "Characterization of a Novel Feeding Strategy and Host Species Specificity in a Freshwater Leech. He observed this leech feeding on the eggs of the redhorse sucker of the genus Moxostoma while doing other research in North Carolina. Mr. Fiumera proposed to determine the identity of the leeches, observe if they prey on the eggs of other redhorse species, and conduct a preliminary investigation of spatial and temporal patterns of habitat use. Dr. Bud Freeman says that if these leeches are predators on redhorse sucker eggs this could be significant in the management of this genus. The funds requested supported travel to the field site and supplies.
The second graduate proposal funded during the 1999 cycle was submitted by Paula Johnson, a master's student in the Institute of Ecology studying with Dr. William Michener, advisor, and Dr. Mary Freeman, coadvisor. Ms. Johnson's title was "Multiple Scale Factors Influencing Mussel Community Composition in Tributary Streams of the Lower Flint Basin, Georgia." She examined freshwater mussels in the streams of southwest Georgia coordinated with current studies of the Appalachicola/Chattahoochee/Flint River Basin. The funds helped her complete her field agenda in the summer of 2000. This project, too, has the potential to make an important contribution to the management of aquatic populations in a region where they are under serious threat.
The first recipients of the Joshua Laerm Award were announced in December, 1998. The graduate student award went to Alissa K. Salmore of the Institute of Ecology. Salmore was awarded $500.
Ms. Salmore's title was "Are the Ant-Plant Interactions of Bloodroot Mediated by Genes or Environment? The Chemical Ecology of Sanguinaria canadensis (Papavaraceae) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains." Salmore was a student of Dr. Mark Hunter at the Institute of Ecology and her application was also supported by Dr. Joe McHugh of the Department of Entomology and the Georgia Museum of Natural History. Her objectives were to characterize the variation in S. canadensis alkaloid production and seed quality along an altitudinal gradient, to determine if the variation in alkaloid and lipid content can be attributed to genetic or environmental factors, and to determine if this variation affects ant behavior. The award augmented support for her summer research program.