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Graduate Student Awards

Biology graduate student research awarded $8,000 in funding in 2017

The Department of Biology is fortunate to have funds dedicated to graduate student research. These funds have been established by friends and families of our faculty and students. We rely on these private donations to provide essential support for our graduate students, support that is not available from state funds or grants. Through the generosity of our donors, our graduate students will receive financial assistance for years to come to pursue their academic goals. We would like to recognize these donors by briefly describing these funds, ordered by date of establishment. This year’s awardees were announced at our annual graduate student dinner in February. A total of $8,000 was awarded to our graduate students this year!

The Lewis and Varina Vaughn Endowment for Orchid Biology was established by the Vaughn-Jordan Foundation in honor of Lewis and Varnia Vaughn in recognition of their long devotion to the study of orchids. The fund supports a graduate student con¬¨ducting research on the biology of orchids. This year, the award went to Haleigh Ray (Gillett-Kaufman Lab, Entomology) for her study, “Pollination and floral fragrance of native, epiphytic orchids in south Florida.”

The Brian Riewald Memorial Fund was established in 2002 by the family and friends of Brian Riewald after his death while still a graduate student in the Department of Zoology at UF. The fund provides small research grants for graduate students in Biology who have deserving projects but inadequate funding. This year, the award went to two graduate students, Shamindri Tennakoon (Kowalewski Lab) for her study, “Impact of artificial reefs on mollusk communities: a comparison between dead and living mollusk assemblages,” and Scott Cinel (Kawahara Lab) for his study, “Determining the physiological and molecular mechanisms affecting induced stress responses and fitness after long-term exposure to bat ultrasound in an agricultural pest mot.”

The Carrie Lynn Yoder Memorial Endowment was established by Carrie’s parents in memory of her. Carrie earned her bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of Florida. The fund supports graduate students in the Department of Biology with an emphasis on coastal ecology. This year, the Yoder award went to Andre Naranjo (P. Soltis Lab) for his study, “Understanding the evolution of narrow endemics for conservation.”

The Michael L. May Fund in Honor of Brian McNab and in Memory of Minter Westfall. Michael May graduated with a PhD from the Department of Zoology at UF and is now a professor in the Department of Entomology at Rutgers University. He established this fund to honor two of his UF professors – Brian McNab (pro¬¨fessor emeritus), who was chair of May’s PhD advisory committee, and Minter Westfall (deceased), who served on May’s committee. This fund supports graduate student research in any area of biology. This year the May Fund award went to Ian Ausprey (Robinson Lab) for his study on “Mechanistic explanations for dispersal limitation in neotropical montane birds: The role of morphology” and to Harlan Gough (Reed Lab) for his study, “Phylogeny and anti-bat adaptations of tiger beetles (Cicindelinae).”

A second May Fund Award recognizes interdisciplinary research. This award went to Chris Johns (Kawahara Lab) and Ummat Somjee (Miller Lab, Entomology) for their collaborative study, “The hidden costs of large weapons: Does large weaponry affect flight performance in an armed insect?”

Mildred Mason Griffith Botany Grant. This fund was established by the estate of Mildred Mason Griffith in 2008. Mildred Griffith was a botany professor specializing in plant anatomy. She was the first female professor of either botany or zoology. The recipient of this year’s Griffith award was Blaine Marchant (Soltis’ Labs) for his study, “The evolutionary significance of alternative splicing in fern and seed plant transcriptome diversity.”

H. Jane Brockmann Graduate Research Award was established in 2011 by zoology professor Jane Brockmann’s students and colleagues upon her retirement from the Department of Biology after 35 years. As a graduate student, Brockmann’s summer field research was made possible by endowed funds from her department, so she and her students wanted to return the favor with a similar research award. This fund supports graduate student research in animal behavior. This year, the award went to Alexandra Gulick (Bjorndal Lab) for her study, “Greener pastures: Impacts of green turtle recovery in the age of global seagrass decline.”

Davis Award. The fund was established in 2012 in honor of John Henry Davis, a former professor of botany. This year, the Davis Award went to Prabha Amarasinghe (Cellinese Lab) for her study, “An integrated approach for understanding the drivers of diversification in Memecylon (Melastomataceae).”