Best Student Paper Awards

Each year a committee of faculty and students must undertake the difficult task of choosing the best journal articles from the many high-quality papers written by VIMS graduate students. Each paper considered is either accepted, in press, or published in a high-quality, peer-reviewed journal. The papers truly reflect the superb quality of the research conducted by VIMS students and the outstanding mentoring of their advisors.

This year’s choice for the best paper by a Master’s student goes to Ms. Emily Yam for her article on “Starvation effects on aggregate colonization and motility of marine bacteria,” which was published in Aquatic Microbial Ecology in 2007. The paper was co-authored by Kam Tang.

Sinking aggregates are an important part of the “biological pump” that transports carbon and other materials from the surface ocean to the deep. Yet recent research has shown that organic aggregates are not inert sinking particles, but they continuously interact with bacteria in the surrounding water, whose activities may modify the quantity and quality of the aggregates. In this paper, Emily combined behavioral observations, experimental manipulations, and mathematical modeling to demonstrate that under starvation bacteria altered their swimming pattern and the rate at which they colonize aggregates. These findings lend important insights into how aggregate-bacteria interactions may differ between food-rich and food-poor waters, and how bacteria may adapt to a fluctuating food environment.

The award for best paper by a PhD student goes to Dr. Joel Hoffman for his article on “Contribution of allochthonous carbon to American Shad production in the Mattaponi River, Virginia, using stable isotopes.” Joel’s paper was published in Estuaries and Coasts in 2007. His co-authors are professors Deborah Bronk and John Olney.

Joel’s Estuaries and Coasts paper provides evidence for an important link between allochthonous organic matter and shad production and suggests that shad production during high flow years can be largely supported with material brought in from outside the system.  Joel is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the EPA lab in Duluth, Minnesota. He and his wife, Shannon, are anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child in June!

Congratulations Emily and Joel.