Student Testimonials

Casey Benkwitt

Oregon State University
Raney Fund Award, 2012

"Mechanisms of Population Control in Invasive Lionfish"

Casey Benkwitt collection lionfish in the Bahamas

The Indo-Pacific red lionfish is an invasive predatory fish that is threatening coral-reef ecosystems throughout the Western Atlantic.  Invasive lionfish populations have been growing rapidly with no sign of slowing.  Therefore, my dissertation research focuses on determining what factors may naturally limit invasive lionfish populations.  To answer questions about lionfish population dynamics, I conduct field experiments in the Bahamas (an area where invasive lionfish are particularly dense).  My home institution is far from the lionfish invasion center and thus travel to my study site is costly. The Raney Fund Award provided crucial transportation funds, enabling me to study invasive lionfish in the field. 

Catherine Dayger

Portland State University
Gaige Fund Award, 2012

"Role of corticosterone in reproduction: Implications for understanding the physiological impacts of climate change"

student researcher

In the first year of my PhD studies, with the generous support of the Gaige Fund, I’ve begun an ambitious research plan that has already yielded promising data.  This year, I was able to travel to Manitoba, Canada to conduct field research examining the role of body condition in modulating the behavioral and hormonal responses to elevated corticosterone in female red-sided garter snakes.  More recently, I’ve been working on experiments to discover if responses to adrenocorticotropic hormone are sexually dimorphic and/or vary with body condition.  With the results of these and future experiments, I’ll be exploring how corticosterone and body condition interact to affect overall reproductive success and individual fitness.  I am grateful for receiving a Gaige Award because it has not only instilled me with confidence in my research ideas, but also contributed to the prestige of my lab and my university.

Robert Denton

The Ohio State University
Gaige Fund Award, 2012

"Genetic identification and ecological characterization of unisexual Ambystoma salamanders across fragmentation gradients in Ohio"

Robert Denton holding a chameleon

My project tests the dispersal abilities of unisexual Ambystoma salamanders in Ohio, USA. These strange salamanders reproduce "semi-sexually", and can contain genomes from up to five other Ambystoma species. Across much of their range, the unisexual salamanders outnumber their congeners, but few ecological or physiological comparisons have been done between the unisexuals and other Ambystoma species. The Gaige award has helped me secure funding for genetic analyzes of these salamanders to investigate if unisexual salamanders have greater dispersal abilities compared to sympatric, sexual salamanders.

Sarah Fitzpatrick

Colorado State University
Raney Fund Award, 2012

"Investigating the effects of hybridization on isolated wild fish populations in Trinidad"

student researcher

My dissertation research aims to test the effects of gene flow on fitness, local adaptation, and population dynamics in wild populations of Trindadian guppies. I integrate mark-recapture modeling, genetic identification, and pedigree reconstruction to study the initial and sustained effects of gene flow between adaptively divergent populations. The Raney Award contributed to the genetic costs of my research, facilitating an essential link between the genetic and demographic sides of my project.

Scarlet kingsnake eating a green anole
coral snake
photo of a black-tailed rattlesnake facing the camera
Speckled Darter