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Congratulations to the following PEEC students for receiving 2022 SIB Graduate Student Awards:

  • Robert Emerson Memorial Award: Joseph Edwards

  • Isabel Norton Award:

    Sarai Stuart - I am studying microRNA regulation of behavior-related gene expression in adult workers of the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera). I found that a single microRNA influences the expression of over one thousand genes in the brain, and this summer, I am using a cell culture based molecular assay, called a luciferase reporter assay, to determine which individual genes interact with this microRNA to better understand the molecular basis of social behavior.

    Sarai rna extraction
    Sarai performing RNA extraction
    Sarai beehive inspection
    bee keeping, beehive inspection
    Sarai oral treatment of microrna knockdown construct
    Sarai providing oral treatment of microRNA knockdown construct
  • Lebus Graduate Scholar Awards:

    Lauren Otoloski - This summer, I’m processing initial samples from a tropical wood decomposition experiment I set up in Panama. I’m interested in how wood chemistry and soil nutrients impact decomposer communities, and how all of these factors impact overall decay.

    Lauren close up at field site in panama
    Lauren close-up at the field site in the Fortuna Forest Reserve, Panama
    Lauren sticks for decomposition experiment 600h
    sticks for a decomposition experiment being placed in the field
    Lauren at field site in fortuna forest reserve 600h
    Lauren at the field site in the Fortuna Forest Reserve, Panama
  • Harley J. Van Cleave Research Awards:

    Facundo Fernandez-Duque - I'm interested in better understanding the evolution of parental care and the mechanisms that give rise to the diversity of parental care strategies we see in nature. I spent this summer studying the environmental and internal mechanisms that drive Red-winged Blackbirds to be good parents. We found over 350 nests and monitored chick feeding in order to look at the hormones and genes that might be mediating these behaviors.

    Facundo newly hatched red winged blackbird
    nest of newly hatched Red-winged Blackbirds
    Facundo holding young male red winged blackbird 600h
    young male Red-winged Blackbird showing the epaulet that will give it the red-winged name when it fully matures
    Facundo in the field cropped 600h
    Facundo setting up a camera to monitor Red-winged Blackbird parental care at the nest

    Neal Benjamin - Neal’s summer research involves sequencing porcine endogenous retroviruses (P-ERVs), which are retroviruses that permanently integrated themselves in the genomic DNA of pigs and their relatives in the distant past. Neal is looking across adiverse set of pig samples at the prevalence and sequence identity of P-ERVs, which can also provide information on the geographic origins of pig species.

    Neal with pig
    Neal holding a pig at Vet Med Open House
    Neal by animal science lab sign 600h
    Neal outside Animal Sciences Laboratory

    Derek McFarland - Thirty-one sites are sampled across the human land-use gradient in St. Louis, MO to investigate changes in the abundance and pathogen infection rate of lone star ticks, and the abundances of key reservoir hosts such as white-tailed deer. Findings will be compared to measurements taken a decade prior to understand how ongoing changes in land-use have influenced human disease risk.

    Derek tick sampling in missouri 600h
    Derek McFarland, 3rd-year PEEC Ph.D. student, poses in the field after a long day of tick sampling in the Missouri heat
    Derek pair of tic traps 600h
    pair of tick traps collected after a 24-hour period of collecting ticks at a State park in the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area; orange flags are used create a 5x5 meter plot for a dung survey
    Derek hundreds of lone star tics 600h
    hundreds of lone star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) are attracted to the CO2 gas from dry ice sublimating in one tick trap; they become stuck to double-sided carpet tape fixed to the trap and are collected 24 hours later
  • Francis M. and Harlie M. Clark Summer Fellowship:

    Sarah Winnicki-Smith - I study the relationship between the hormones and other resources in bird eggs and the growth of the babies that hatch from them! Over the summer, I measured hundreds of baby American Robins!

    Sarah monitors robin nest in local arbor
    Sarah monitoring a robin nest in a local arbor
    Sarah young american robin nestling measured for research
    young American Robin nestling Sarah measured for the research project
    Sarah searches for robin nests at beginning of season
    Sarah searching for robin nests at the beginning of the field season
  • Francis M. and Harlie M. Clark Research Support Grants: Jeannette Cullum and

    Sana Saboowala - Taking an interdisciplinary approach, my project uses a historical trauma framework to see if and how historical trauma and/or other stressors impact methylation and gene expression in South Asian immigrants to the USA from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Through analysis of DNA, RNA, and survey data in conjunction with in-depth life history interviews I ask questions about the impacts of historical trauma stemming from histories of displacement on methylation and gene expression, the ways self-perception may impact methylation and gene expression, the relationship between historical trauma and the conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA) and themethods used to measure CTRA.

    Sana london 600h
    Sana in Brick Lane, London, home to much of the Bengali diaspora in the city
    Sana wagah border 600h
    Wagah border between India and Pakistan; many people crossed here during the Partition, and currently there are ceremonies atthe border
  • Mary F. Willson Graduate Research Fund:

    Kevin Neumann - This summer I conducted a mark-recapture study across multiple lakes in Alaska to quantify the dispersal and movement of three-spined stickleback across different microhabitats. I ended up marking 6,345 fish and recapturing 1,182 fish across four lakes and two microhabitats per lake.

    Kevin river mountains 600h
    mountain range overlooking the perimeter of Tern Lake, Kenai Peninsula, AK
    Kevin by river 600h
    catching stickleback using minnow traps in Tern Lake, Kenai Peninsula
    Kevin eagle on tree 600h
    bald eagle perching on a tree, overlooking Walby Lake, Wasilla, AK
  • Graduate Students in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Symposium Awards: Fahren Zackery, Joseph Edwards and

    Ratna Karatgi - My research this summer is focused on examiningthe influence of microhabitat variationin lighting environmenton the development of blue anal fin coloration in male bluefin killifish. The is a step towards our goal of understanding the influence of different environmental factors on the plasticity in phenotypes. We are rearing offspring of males with blue anal fins in different lighting environments, and at different depths in the water column, and will examine the number of sons from these crosses with blue anal fins once the hatchlings reach adulthood.

    Ratna eggs on spawning substrate
    bluefin killifish eggs on spawning substrate
    Ratna hatchings
    bluefin killifish hatchlings
    Ratna male(top)bluefin killifish
    Ratna female(bottom)bluefin killifish
    male (top) and female (bottom) bluefin killifish
  • PEEC Summer Research Grant:

    Kat Soto - The common coquí frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui) is an ideal species to examine the role of behavior in invasion. I conducted behavioral trials in the field on the island of Hawai’i during the summer of 2022. Latency to emerge, activity, exploration, and response to audio stimuli (coquí calls) were evaluated across four site types of density and elevation. Kat's travel expenses were covered by the UIUC Graduate College Master's Project Travel Grant, PEEC Summer Research Grant, and external funding from the Animal Behavior Society Student Research Grant.

    Kat getting audio coqui calls 600h
    Kat getting audio recordings of coquí calls, Big Island Hawai’i
    Kat first coqui catch 600h
    Kat handling coquí in the field, Big Island Hawai’i
    Kat behavioral setup 600h
    nocturnal behavioral arena with IR camcorder & field speaker, Big Island Hawai’i

Congratulations to Sulagna Chakraborty for being awarded a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the UIUC Graduate College:

Sulagna Chakraborty - My research focusses on understanding the ecological and epidemiological factors of vector-borne disease (VBD) transmission and implement measures that can be used to prevent the spread of these VBDs. I am working on a variety of projects that evaluate the environmental and social drivers behind VBD transmission.

Sulagna tickdragging 600h
conducting tick dragging in southern Illinois
Sulagna dungsurvey 600h
at Archbold Biological Station, Florida doing wildlife dung survey
Sulagna farmerresearch 600h
presenting farmer KAP study results at the Annual VetMed Research Day

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