Best Student Paper Awards

Each year a committee of faculty and students undertakes 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 reflect the superb quality of the research conducted by VIMS students and the outstanding mentoring of their advisors. Papers are judged for the scope of problem, degree of challenge, magnitude of student’s effort, hypothesis formulation and testing, and writing style.

The committee members—Rich Brill, Ryan Carnegie, Lúcia Safi, Matt Kirwan, and Christine Meynard—evaluated 15 papers.

This year’s choice for the best paper recognizes the outstanding work of former PhD student Dr. Chris Long.

Chris LongChris’ paper—“Individual, population, and ecosystem effects of hypoxia on a dominant benthic bivalve in Chesapeake Bay”—appeared in Ecological Monographs and was co-authored by Rochelle Seitz, Rom Lipcius, and Bryce Brylawski.

Low-oxygen water impacts bottom-dwelling communities worldwide, yet few have studied its impact at the level of individuals, populations, or ecosystems. Chris’ paper examined the effects of low-oxygen on Macoma balthica, one of the most common clams in the York and Rappahannock rivers. Chris combined data from field surveys and experiments to create a computer model showing that low-oxygen waters decreased clam growth, reduced egg production, magnified predation rates, and caused populations to decline toward extinction. The paper underscores how stress to individuals can combine to affect populations and ecosystems as well. Because of the quality of Chris’ work and the high citation rate of this prestigious journal, this research is sure to have a strong impact on the field of marine ecology.

Chris is now a Research Ecologist and Fishery Biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, and lives in Kodiak, Alaska, with his wife Jordana and three children.

Read the paper on-line.