2007 VIMS Student Awards

Ms. Althea MooreCraig L. Smith Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded annually to an academically distinguished graduate student to honor the memory of its namesake, former Professor of Environmental Science Dr. Craig Smith.

This year the Smith Scholarship is awarded to Althea Moore for her outstanding contributions to research.

Althea Moore came to VIMS with a distinguished academic record, graduating with a B.S. in Biology from Earlham College, and with strong practical experience in a range of biological disciplines. Since entering our graduate program less than a year ago, she has enriched our scholarly community with a contagious enthusiasm for learning, a strong creative spark, and a refreshingly individual perspective on a wide range of topics. She has also proved herself a model of focused dedication to her studies and development of her research plans.

Althea’s interests focus on how interactions among organisms structure the way in which ecosystems function and provide services to human society. In the midst of the tumultuous first year of core marine science courses, she dove into a project synthesizing data on community interactions from previous studies. Her developing work has already documented intriguing patterns in the functional diversity of animals near the base of estuarine food chains. This research has implications not only for understanding food-web dynamics in Chesapeake Bay seagrass beds, but also for understanding broader general principles by which ecological communities are organized and function.

Althea Moore is clearly setting out on a productive and innovative career in marine ecology, and is an asset to the VIMS community. She is a worthy recipient of the Craig Smith Fellowship.

Congratulations, Althea! | top

Ms. Karinna NunezKelley Watson Fellowship

The Kelley Watson Fellowship recognizes a student who exhibits academic excellence and leadership and has excelled in the core courses during the first year of graduate study. The fellowship is named in memory of Kelley Watson, a member of the incoming class of September 2000 who impressed her teachers and fellow students with her enthusiasm, commitment to academic excellence, and strong promise for a successful marine science career.

This year the core course instructors have enthusiastically nominated Karinna Núñez for the Kelley Watson Fellowship.

Karinna received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of the Republic in Uruguay, where she studied primary production in the Rio de la Plata estuary. As a young researcher in Uruguay, Karinna analyzed hydrocarbons for the Uruguayan navy using gas chromatography, cultured microbial communities for a hospital clinic, studied reproductive periods in electric fishes for a research institute, and analyzed lipid composition in nursing South American fur seals for a university project. In 2004, she came to VIMS with her husband Eduardo, and began working in the Center for Coastal Resources Management as a GIS technician. To stay busy, she also had a daughter, Kamilla, and enrolled as a student at VIMS.

In her brief tenure in the School of Marine Science, Karinna has proven to be an outstanding student and a remarkably productive researcher. Her intellectual abilities are matched by an enthusiasm for learning and an irrepressible spirit that make her an asset in any research effort. Karinna is already well on her way to completion of a thesis developing and applying a multi-level erosion risk assessment model to tidal shorelines in Maryland. We wish her the best of luck and congratulate her on this award.

Felicidades, Karinna! | top

Mr. David HewittJohn M. & Marilyn Zeigler Student Achievement Award

The Zeigler Student Achievement Award honors the past contributions to student needs of Dr. John Zeigler, the first SMS Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, and the continuing contributions of Mrs. Marilyn Zeigler. The award is presented annually for recognition of scholarly, professional, and personal integrity, and for the contributions made to the VIMS through enthusiastic participation in its academic and research programs.

This year’s award recipient is Dave Hewitt.

Dave Hewitt’s accomplishments in the School of Marine Science have been exceptional. As a Willard A. Van Engel fellowship recipient, Dave has successfully integrated fisheries science, ecological processes, and statistical theory in his dissertation research, which has so far resulted in five papers either published or in press, and two more in preparation. Dave made it a point to apply his research in a broader arena, specifically to fisheries management of the blue crab, which has suffered an 80% population decline in recent years. Dave used state-of-the-art tag-recapture techniques and advanced statistical methods to estimate natural mortality of the blue crab. The results were vital to the 2006 Blue Crab Stock Assessment and his prominent contributions led to his designation as a co-author of the stock assessment, a rare circumstance for a graduate student.

In addition, Dave’s activities with the Graduate Student Association have been instrumental in revising the core course structure of the School of Marine Science, and his initiative with Information-Theoretic Methods of Scientific Inference led to adoption of this highly effective mode of inference by numerous faculty, staff, and students of the institute. Simply put, Dave has been one of the brightest, most independent, and hard-working graduate students of the School of Marine Science. Dave is truly an exemplary VIMS student and highly deserving of the Zeigler award.

Congratulations, Dave | top

Steven Baer Mark Henderson

Steven Baer

Mark Henderson

William J. Hargis Jr. Fellowship Award

Dr. Hargis established this annual award to recognize a first-year graduate student based on superior academic performance and a demonstration of exceptional promise in marine research. Nominations for the Hargis Fellowship are made by instructors in the first-year core courses and forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

The co-winners of the William J. Hargis, Jr. Fellowship for 2007 are Steven Baer & Mark Henderson.

Steve Baer received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in Social Thought and Political Economy. He was less than a stellar student back then—we suspect beer may have been involved. After working for years in the corporate world, he decided to do what he had always wanted to do—science! He went back to college, receiving a B.S. in Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, in 2007. This time he was a star student. While at UMass Boston he worked with Juanita Urban-Rich on carbon cycling in copepods and got his first taste of oceanography. He has approached his studies at VIMS with great enthusiasm. While many first years complain about the core courses, Steven tends to walk around with a smile on his face, appreciating the simple joy that he’ll be able to wear tennis shoes and khakis to work for the rest of his life. Though he is still developing his research prospectus, he’s thinking big-picture nitrogen cycling, preferably in exotic locations.

Mark Henderson has demonstrated superior academic performance and shows exceptional promise for a successful career in marine science. Mark arrived at VIMS with an outstanding record of academic and workplace accomplishments, and a strong determination to pursue his Ph.D. degree. Previous experiences conducting fisheries field research provided Mark with the confidence, maturity, and focus necessary for successful multi-tasking, a skill particularly well suited to academic life. In part, this award recognizes Mark’s academic achievements, especially the scholarship he demonstrated in the core courses. This award also acknowledges Mark’s promise as a marine scientist. He has a keen ability to grasp complex material and thoughtfully integrate new concepts; these skills and abilities will serve him well as he pursues his professional goals in the years to come.

Mark received his B.S. degree in Biology cum laude from the State University of New York, College at Geneseo and his M.S. degree in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences from the University of Washington. He has conducted field work in the Pacific northwest, the wilds of Alaska, and now in Chesapeake Bay, where he has been studying the ecology of summer flounder using acoustic telemetry with Dr. Mary Fabrizio and Jon Lucy. Mark has already contributed a number of novel approaches to analyzing fisheries acoustic data and his Ph.D. work holds promise of furthering our understanding of estuarine fish ecology. We look forward to his continuing success!

Congratulations, Steve and Mark! | top

Mr. Andrij HorodyskyThe Matthew Fontaine Maury Student Fellowship Award

The Matthew Fontaine Maury Student Fellowship Award is made possible by a gift and pledge of Retired U.S. Navy Captain J. Maury Werth to honor his great-grandfather Matthew Fontaine Maury, a son of Virginia often referred to as the "Father of Oceanography" and the "Pathfinder of the Seas." The Maury Award recognizes interdisciplinary achievements in marine and environmental scholarship, research, and/or policy/management efforts, and outstanding publications, thesis, or dissertation work.

This year's winner is Andrij Horodysky.

Andrij has shown himself to be an interdisciplinary scientist of the highest caliber. His dissertation research in the area of sensory biology of fishes works at the intersection of organismal biophysics and ecology. His investigations of hearing, visual acuity, and spectral sensitivity in estuarine fishes have required him to master theory and techniques from diverse areas of sensory biology, including acoustics, biomechanics, and photobiology. This work is an ambitious undertaking, requiring a high level of technical skill in the laboratory to execute properly.

In addition to his outstanding research, Andrij has developed a masterful ability to communicate science effectively. He has presented his research to a wide range of audiences, including recreational anglers, members of advisory boards within the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, and colleagues at several national and international conferences. His presentations are detailed without being overwhelming, humorous yet serious, with a top-notch sense of how to effectively convey complex and interdisciplinary topics.
Without question, Andrij has developed into an exceptional young scientist. He is highly motivated and extremely productive, as evidenced by his role as co-PI on five grants from extramural agencies and co-author of five peer-reviewed manuscripts.

Because of the quality and breadth of his research and his natural leadership abilities, Andrij is a very deserving recipient of the Maury Award.

Congratulations, Andrij! | top

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. | Read papers online (VIMS only) | top

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