Young scientists showcased at
STRI fellows symposium
STRI Panama

Victor Frankel talks about his poster during STRI’s Fellows Symposium.

Judging from the outstanding research displayed at this year’s Fellows Symposium, the future of STRI science looks as promising as ever.

The best of STRI’s young scientists delivered 20 talks, presented 23 research posters and mounted fierce competition for STRI’s pre and postdoctoral fellowships. One young researcher also won the first-ever Jackson/ Knowlton Award, given to an outstanding scientific publication by a fellow or intern. “Every year the Fellowship Symposium gets better,” said Owen McMillan, STRI’s Dean of Academic Programs.

The week’s top honor, the three-year Tupper Fellowship, went to Carlos Prada, who just concluded his Ph.D. at Louisiana State University. Prada specializes in how organisms cope with environmental variation. His fellowship will focus on the evolution of adaptive variation in sea urchins. “Prada recognizes that if you’re going to make progress on understanding how evolution proceeds, you’re going to start with a system we know a lot about,” said McMillan. “He’s using our wealth of knowledge about their development genetics and attaching a lot of ecology to the project to tell a really cool story.” Postdoctoral fellowships were awarded to five researchers, including Crystal Kelehear, a researcher in the lab of STRI staff scientist Mark Torchin.

“The fellowship is imperative to continuing my work in Panama,” said Kelehear, who studies cane toads. She believes investigating the toad in its native Central American range may increase understanding of why it such a successful invasive species in her native Australia — and perhaps yield clues on how to control it.

The other postdoctoral fellow awards were for Sabrina Amador, Wouter Halfwerk, Charlotte Jandér and Michele Pierotti.

First Jackson/Knowlton Award

STRI emeritus scientists Jeremy Jackson and Nancy Knowlton topped off the symposium with a $1,000 award. The distinction went to Brian Sedio for “Fine-scale niche structure of Neotropical forests reflects a legacy of the Great American Biotic Exchange,” published in Nature Communications. In it, Sedio and colleagues showed how modern tree species distribution in tropical forests can be explained by their ancestral climate, “even millions of years after dispersal into new geographic regions.”

“I am honored to be recognized by the Jackson/Knowlton award and thrilled to highlight my paper in the STRI community,” said Sedio. His paper was selected from 15 submissions. “It is gratifying seeing how our fellows are doing great research and publishing in prestigious journals,” said STRI director emeritus Ira Rubinoff.

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