2015 nominees

Abrams.Peter

PETER ABRAMS

Current position: Professor Emeritus, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Research areas/field:

  • Ecology of populations, communities & ecosystems
  • Theoretical & computational biology
  • Evolutionary theory

Known for: Considered to be one of the world’s leading theoretical ecologists.

Website’s bio: “Almost all of my work involves analyzing mathematical models to help understand the dynamics of ecological and evolutionary processes.  I have worked on a range of problems in population, community, and evolutionary ecology.  Over the last decade, I have primarily worked on optimal foraging behaviour under predation risk, the coevolution of interacting species, the interaction of species in variable environments, the ecological effects of evolutionary change, adaptive movement in patchy environments, and the impacts of harvesting on population size.   I began my academic life working on competition for shells between hermit crabs, and have worked on a diverse array of within-species problems ranging from the evolution of anisogamy to the evolution of senescence.  My main project since retiring at the end of 2012 has been to develop a critical analysis of the structure and use of theory in ecology and evolution.  Part of this involves developing new theory on the population-level consequences of the adaptive evolution of traits that have direct effects on individual reproduction or survival.”

Websites: http://www.eeb.utoronto.ca/people/d-faculty/abrams.htm; http://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/peter-abrams-an-appreciation

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ANDREW BAKER

Current position: Associate Professor, Marine Biology & Ecology, University of Miami (RSMAS)

Research areas/field: Biology, ecology & conservation of coral reefs

  • Focus on the impacts of climate change
  • Population genetics & ecological physiology of coral (includes bleaching)
  • Marine conservation biology

Known for: Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation in 2008 for his work on the adaptive response of reef corals to climate change.

Website’s bio: “I am a marine biologist interested in the biology, ecology and conservation of coral reefs, with a focus on the impacts of climate change on these ecosystems. Much of my research studies corals from the perspective of their algal symbionts (zooxanthellae in the genus Symbiodinium). Many corals have the ability to host different types of algal symbionts, and this flexibility helps them adapt to environmental variability. My lab has been assessing how important and widespread this ability is, and how it affects the response of corals (and the ecosystems they build) to climate change. Much of this work involves the study of molecular systematics and ecology (since these symbionts are most readily identified from their DNA), but this work also has a strong experimental focus in Miami, using corals growing in indoor and outdoor facilities, as well as fieldwork on coral reefs worldwide. Additional interests include population genetics and ecological physiology of coral reef organisms (including coral bleaching), marine conservation biology, and fostering better communication of science to public and policy audiences.”

Websites: http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/people/faculty-index/?p=andrew-c-baker

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TITUS BROWN

Current position: Assistant Professor, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics and Computer Science & Engineering, Michigan State University

Research areas/field: Genomics, evolution & development

  • Microbial ecology
  • Evo-devo & disease
  • Bacterial & animal genomics

Known for: Pushing the interface between investigative tools and biological science – develops computational software for next generation sequencing.

Website bio: “My research plans focus on the opportunities at the intersection of computation and biology: in particular, I am interested in enabling and doing data-intensive biology, where I can build tools and approaches that harness large investigator-driven data sets to direct hypothesis-driven experimentation and hypothesis-free interpretation. I have spent 20 years applying computation effectively to pressing scientific problems. During this time I have worked in evolutionary modeling, data analysis for climate studies, regulatory genomics, developmental gene regulatory networks, and bioinformatics. My graduate and post-doctoral work in evolutionary developmental biology used computation to generate hypotheses in a range of biological systems, including sea urchin, chick, microbes, and marine sediment microbial communities. Moreover, in all these areas I have worked closely with experimentalists to connect hypotheses to experiment. Over the coming decade, I will continue to work on important biological problems using computation and collaboration.”

Websites: ged.msu.edu/index.html; http://simplystatistics.org/2012/08/17/interview-with-c-titus-brown-computational-biologist

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ROBERT DUNN

Current position: Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University

Research areas/field:

  • Ecology & evolution
  • Climate change & modeling changing distributions
  • Citizen science & public outreach/science communication

Known for: In addition to his research, he’s known for his essays and award-winning books, including “Every Living Thing: Man’s Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys”.

Website bio: Most of the living world remains poorly or totally unknown. In my lab we study the species around us in our everyday lives, species we tend to think of us as well known. Most of those species are not well known and so there are many things to discover in your backyard, in your bedroom, or even on your roommate. Some days I work to study these species myself, bending down to figure out whether the fungus on my neighbor’s foot is a new species. More often I spent my time working with students and other researchers to help along their own discoveries. I also write about the world around us, which is a chance to share the stories of the scientists who have devoted their lives to understanding species, organs, cells, genes or ecosystems that influence us every day. In my building alone I am surrounded by biologists who study prairie voles, rare butterflies, fish ovaries, dinosaurs with long, long, claws, the decisions we make when threatened with death, alcoholic fruitflies, fungus farming beetles, and much, much more. It is a good job, this thing called science, silly at times, serious at others, but nearly always good.”

Websites: http://www.robrdunn.com; http://robdunnlab.com

Earle.Sylvia

SYLVIA EARLE

Current position: Marine biologist, explorer, author & lecturer; National Geographic explorer-in-residence; creator of Mission Blue project

Research areas/field:

  • Women in science & underwater exploration
  • Deep ocean engineering
  • Conservation & public speaking

Known for: First female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet; leader of Ocean Advisory Council for Google Earth.

Website bio: “”I can still feel that leap of enthusiasm, and real joy, at the prospect of finally getting out to the beach, and running around. But probably the most important thing, to me, aside from just the freedom of it and the power of it, was the kind of creatures that you could see along the beach that you can’t find anywhere else.” That child’s fascination with the crabs she found scurrying in the sand was the beginning of a remarkable career in marine science. Today, Sylvia Earle is the best-known woman marine scientist on the planet. Among other accomplishments, she has walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any other human being. When Sylvia Earle first began her career, she met resistance. Some people could not accept a woman traveling with men on long scientific expeditions, but her remarkable accomplishments have won her a position in the oceanographic community that transcends boundaries. Botanist, biologist, conservationist, entrepreneur, Sylvia Earle has followed whales in the open sea, fought with sharks, and lived for weeks at a time on the floor of the sea, in the Tektite undersea station. She has challenged and overcome every obstacle that stood in the path of her burning curiosity about the magical world beneath the waves.”

Websites: http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/ear0bio-1; http://www.ted.com/talks/sylvia_earle_s_ted_prize_wish_to_protect_our_oceans

 Fire.Andrew

ANDREW FIRE

Current position: Professor, Pathology and Genetics/School of Medicine, Stanford University

Research areas/field:

  • Pathology & genetics
  • Gene silencing

Known for: Awarded 2006 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of RNA interference.

Website bio: “The genetic landscape faced by a living cell is constantly changing. Developmental transitions, environmental shifts, and pathogenic invasions lend a dynamic character to both the genome and its activity pattern.We study a variety of natural mechanisms that are utilized by cells adapting to genetic change. These include mechanisms activated during normal development and systems for detecting and responding to foreign or unwanted genetic activity. At the root of these studies are questions of how a cell can distinguish “self” versus “nonself” and “wanted” versus “unwanted” gene expression. We primarily make use of the nematode C. elegans in our experimental studies. C. elegans is small, easily cultured, and can readily be made to accept foreign DNA or RNA. The results of such experiments have outlined a number of concerted responses that recognize (and in most cases work to silence) the foreign nucleic acid. One such mechanism (“RNAi”) responds to double stranded character in RNA: either as introduced experimentally into the organism or as produced from foreign DNA that has not undergone selection to avoid a dsRNA response. Much of the current effort in the lab is directed toward a molecular understanding of the RNAi machinery and its roles in the cell. RNAi is not the only cellular defense against unwanted nucleic acid, and substantial current effort in the lab is also directed at identification of other triggers and mechanisms used in recognition and response to foreign information.”

Websites: http://firelab.stanford.edu

Hurlbert.Allen

ALLEN HURLBERT

Current position: Assistant Professor, Biology, University of North Carolina

Research areas/field:

  • Biogeography
  • Macroecology
  • Community Ecology

Known for: His lab works on some of the biggest-scale questions in ecology and evolution. Also, an IB grad student “met Allen briefly last summer at a small conference where he lit the place up during the poster session with his non-traditional poster: a sheet of paper, some markers and one question, “What’s the simplest model of diversification of Earth that can evaluate multiple hypotheses & how would you do it?”. People scribbled answers, voted and debated with him for hours.”

IB student’s bio: “Allen is an assistant professor at UNC Chapel Hill, where his lab works on some of the biggest-scale questions in ecology and evolution. His general area of research is biogeography, macroecology and community ecology, though he works on many different topics in systems that span vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant communities, using experimental, observational, and computational techniques. His research has been published in many high-impact journals, including PNAS and Ecology Letters, on such topics as energetics, global diversity, functional traits, and macroevolution…Allen is a macroecologist in the sense that he studies large-scale ecological patterns and attempts to understand the process-based mechanisms that drive these patterns through space and time. There are few people who take a macroecological approach to ecology and evolution and none in our department, so I think we all could learn a lot from his work and his unique perspective. Learning more about his work has certainly opened my eyes to a completely different way to think about the world!”

Websites: http://labs.bio.unc.edu/Hurlbert/index.html; http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=u-w6khsAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao

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HANNA KOKKO

Current position: Professor, Evolutionary Ecology, University of Zurich

Research areas/field:

  • Behavioral, evolutionary & physiological ecology

Known for: Elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2014, for her significant contributions to ecology and evolutionary biology using novel mathematic methods.

Website bio: “I am primarily a theoretician, but one who loves the outdoors. In combination it is a good life: one can visit a field site once someone else (a student, or a collaborator) has already dealt with all the boring logistics, knows the most enjoyable things to do, and has already some exciting data points to show. I call this professional parasitism, but at least some of my collaborators claim to categorize it as mutualism. I hope it’s true. As a consequence, some people in my lab have been empiricists who’d like to learn how to build mathematical models of evolutionary processes, others are on the theoretical side themselves, others still are more into ecology than evolution, and so on. What is nice is that they all talk to each other – I believe the fancy word for that is synergy.”

Websites: http://biology.anu.edu.au/people/hanna-kokko#acton-tabs-link–tabs-0-middle-1

Lively.Curt

CURT LIVELY

Current position: Professor, Biology, Indiana University

Research areas/field:

  • Evolution of sex & recombination
  • Local adaptation & coevolution in parasites
  • Evolution & ecology of virulence
  • Mate-choice evolution
  • Phenotypic plasticity & polymorphism

Known for: Distinguished professor of biology; Served as Vice President to Society for the Study of Evolution and American Society of Naturalists; AAAS Fellow

Website bio: “Students in my lab group work on topics loosely organized around the evolution & ecology of interspecific interactions and/or the evolution of reproductive strategies, especially cross-fertilization. We are particularly interested in host-parasite coevolution and the evolution and ecology of parasite virulence…Why do so many organisms have two sexual morphs: male and female?  And why do the females cross-fertilize instead of producing clonal offspring?  Assuming no concomitant reduction in fecundity, an asexual female would produce twice as many daughters (and four times as many grand-daughters) as the average sexual female; and unchecked, the resulting clone would quickly replace the sexual females and males in the population.  Our approach has been to study species that have both sexual and asexual females, so that there is a firm basis for comparison between the two reproductive strategies.  Sexual reproduction in one such species, a freshwater New Zealand snail, is correlated with the incidence of infection by parasitic trematodes, which is consistent with the idea that the production of variable, cross-fertilized progeny is favored in populations where there is a high risk of infection (The Red Queen hypothesis).  We are presently involved in more detailed genetic and ecological studies of this snail in populations where sexual and asexual females coexist.  I am also interested in the evolution of parasite virulence, and the evolution of phenotypic plasticity.”

Websites: http://www.indiana.edu/~curtweb

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RANDY OLSON

Current position: Independent filmmaker & writer, Hollywood

Research areas/field:

  • Science communication & storytelling
  • Filmmaking

Known for: His two movies, “Flock of Dodos” and “Sizzle”, and his book, “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style”.

Website bio: “Randy Olson was a humble, mild-mannered professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire. But then his brain sort of turned inside out and he shifted from scientist to artist. It happened in his first year as a professor. He hit a point where he realized that after fifteen years of telling stories OF science he had grown more interested in telling stories ABOUT science. Despite his Harvard Ph.D., four years of post-doctoral research in Australia and Florida, and years of diving around the world from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica, he tossed it all in, resigned from his tenured professorship and moved to Hollywood to explore film as a medium for communicating science.  Today he is an independent filmmaker and no longer considers himself a scientist, but is now fluent in the two languages of science and cinema. In addition to writing and directing his own feature films about major issues in science, he has worked with a variety of clients to assist them with the use of visual media in communicating science to the general public. Through his writings he has both related his journey, and continues his exploration into the role of storytelling in the mass communication of science.”

Websites: http://www.randyolsonproductions.com/randy_olson/randy_olson_index.html

Rutherford.Julienne

JULIENNE RUTHERFORD

Current position: Assistant Professor, Women, Children & Family Health Science, University of Illinois

Research areas/field:

  • maternal physiology
  • biological anthropology

Known for: UIC Researcher of the Year Rising Star in the Clinical Sciences; part of the research team that published the recent paper addressing sexual harassment and assault in field-based settings, “Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault”.

IB student’s bio: “She was part of the research team that published the recent paper addressing sexual harassment and assault in field-based settings, “Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault”. Since its open access publication in July, their paper has received nearly 46,000 views. They found that while working in field settings, 71% of women and 41% of men reported experiencing harassment, and 26% of women and 6% of men reported experiencing assault. The majority of women and men were trainees (graduate students, interns) when they had these experiences, although the perpetrators were different. Perpetrators against women were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. This study identified mechanisms to improve awareness, safety inclusivity, and collegiality for a diversity of researchers in the field. Hosting Dr. Rutherford will provide our community with the opportunity to review OSU and IB policies regarding sexual violence, learn mechanisms of reporting in campus and in the field, and discuss how PIs can influence workplace culture at their field sites to ensure positive experiences for their trainees.”

Websites: http://www.nursing.uic.edu/faculty-staff/julienne-rutherford-phd; http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0102172

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PARDIS SABETI

Current position: Associate Professor, Systems Biology/Organismic & Evolutionary Biology/Immunology & Infectious Disease, Harvard School of Public Health

Research areas/field:

  • Methods to detect natural selection in human & other species genomes
  • Host and viral genetic factors driving resistance
  • Signals of natural selection in pathogens

Known for: Frequently featured in media for her work with viruses, including Ebola and Malaria.

Website bio: “Dr. Sabeti is a computational geneticist with expertise studying genetic diversity, developing algorithms to detect genetic signatures of natural selection, and carrying out genetic association studies. She completed her undergraduate degree at MIT and her PhD at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, before returning to earn her medical degree from Harvard Medical School as a Soros Fellow. Dr. Sabeti’s lab focuses on detecting and characterizing signals of natural selection in humans and pathogens. Dr. Sabeti is supported by a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award, a Packard Foundation Fellowship in Science and Engineering, and an NIH Innovator award, and awards from NIAID, TMTI, and the Gates Foundation. Dr. Sabeti is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, a PopTech Science Fellow, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and is the lead singer of the alternative rock band Thousand Days.”

Websites: http://sabetilab.org

Solomon.Andrew

ANDREW SOLOMON

Current position: Writer and Lecturer living in New York and London

Research areas/field:

  • Psychology, politics, & the arts
  • Activist in LGBT rights, mental health & the arts
  • Philanthropy

Known for: His written work on a range of subjects and his book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression won the 2001 National Book Award, was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, and was included in The Times list of one hundred best books of the decade.

IB student’s bio: “Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology. In August 2013, he was awarded a Ph.D. in psychology from Jesus College, Cambridge, with a thesis on attachment theory prepared under the supervision of Juliet Mitchell. His book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (Scribner, 2001), won the 2001 National Book Award for Nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, won twelve other national awards, and was included in the London Times list of one hundred best books of the decade. Solomon is a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell and Special Advisor on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Mental Health at Yale. He is a director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Trans Youth Family Allies; the University of Michigan Depression Center; Columbia Psychiatry; and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of Columbia University Medical Center. From 1993 to 2001, Solomon was a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, writing on a wide range of subjects; he has also written periodically for the New Yorker. Such journalism has spanned many topics, including depression, Soviet artists, the cultural rebirth of Afghanistan, and Libyan politics… He’s a gifted and versatile speaker, and he address topics that I seldom see covered in any talks here at OSU; namely the human experience. I believe he would appeal to a broad audience, especially among graduate students, and provide a novel perspective.”

Websites: http://andrewsolomon.com; http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_how_the_worst_moments_in_our_lives_make_us_who_we_are?language=en; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7Avvj2qtnY

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RYAN THUM

Current position: Assistant Professor, AWRI/College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Grand Valley State University

Research areas/field:

  • Evolutionary ecology
  • Molecular Ecology
  • Invasion Biology

Known for: Conducting applied science that leads to policy, management, and commercial products.

Website bio: “My general fields of interest encompass evolutionary and molecular ecology, with a specific emphasis on invasive aquatic species. While deeply rooted in basic evolutionary ecology research, my laboratory also puts research into action in tangible ways.  Thus, in addition to publications in peer-reviewed journals, the research leads to policy and management through interactions with regulatory agencies (e.g., Department of Environmental Quality) and into commercial products such as risk assessment tools.  Students graduating with a Master of Science degree from my lab therefore network with collaborators from a variety of public and private sectors, and thus have a variety of career options, such as academia, government, environmental consulting, business, and industry. The current focus of my laboratory is the evolutionary ecology of invasiveness and herbicide resistance in aquatic plants, with a particular emphasis on hybridization and evolution.  These projects include studies of: the genetic basis of herbicide response, population structure, molecular evolution of candidate genes for herbicide response, and gene expression differences.”

Websites: http://www.gvsu.edu/wri/thum

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