News & Announcements

IDGP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement

The Interdepartmental Graduate Programs in Life Sciences (IDGPs) believe that a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment is critical to all that we do.  We recognize that systemic racism exists in our society and we pledge to educate ourselves so that we can change our ingrained habits and beliefs. We are committed to make our programs accessible to all and to increase the success of all our members. We dedicate our time, effort and financial resources to these activities. We work with Institutional leaders, faculty, staff and students to achieve these goals. We are providing this pdf link so that you are able to view a working document of our activities. 

We are proud of our amazing students and post docs who have worked tirelessly for the betterment of our community. Our students have fostered a tight-knit, progressive community and their recent efforts have resulted in this petition for systematic change.  We stand with them in recognizing that change is required in order to make progress toward a more equitable, just, diverse and inclusive environment. 

The University has established an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and their website provides links to many resources. We encourage you to make use of these tools, including links to videos, books and podcasts as well as programing, as we embark together on our journey to improve our community for all our members.  

Kadambari Devarajan Selected As OEB 2020-2021 JEDI Fellow

Kadambari Devarajan

We are thrilled to announce that PhD candidate Kadambari Devarajan ("KD") has been selected as this year's OEB Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Fellow. This new position is in response to the recent events in our country that have called attention to the urgent need to address systemic racism in our science and our society. OEB is undertaking a review of all aspects of our program to identify ways that we can do better. This effort will require involvement of all OEB members, and the JEDI Fellow will help to coordinate some of these actions, including gathering JEDI resources to share with the OEB community, co-creating JEDI curriculum material for the Fall proseminar, and assisting the OEB leadership with evaluating the effectiveness of initiatives that aim to enhance JEDI in the program. Welcome KD!

Laura Figueroa Assumes Position As OEB Darwin Mentoring Fellow

Laura Figueroa

It is our great pleasure to introduce Laura Figueroa as the newest OEB Darwin Mentoring Fellow! She will be replacing former Fellow, John Rowan, who accepted a faculty position in the Anthropology Department at SUNY Albany. Laura will assist with teaching the proseminar for incoming OEB students and serving as a near-peer mentor more generally in OEB. We are thrilled that Laura is able to serve in this role. Laura completed her PhD in 2020 from the Dept of Entomology at Cornell University. She is joining UMass remotely this Fall as she begins a combined NSF Postdoc Fellowship and Postdoctoral Pathway Fellowship in the ECo department. Welcome Laura!

UMass Amherst Biologists Zero in on Cells’ Environmental Sensing Mechanism

R. Craig Albertson

Evolutionary and developmental biologist Craig Albertson and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report that they have identified a molecular mechanism that allows an organism to change the way it looks depending on the environment it is exposed to, a process known as phenotypic plasticity.

In addition to lead investigators Albertson and Rolf Karlstrom, the team includes recently graduated doctoral students Dina Navon and Ira Male, current Ph.D. candidate Emily Tetrault and undergraduate Benjamin Aaronson. Their paper appears now in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

Statement from OEB Program Leader, Paige Warren

I echo the sadness and concern expressed by our Chancellor and others about the recent acts of violence and intimidation against Black people and other marginalized groups. I know that we in the OEB community reject racism and violence, and we send our condolences and support to the families and friends of those who have been killed. I also recognize that some of our community members are currently feeling devastated by recent events, and may be finding it hard to focus on their work. I encourage advisors and peers to be kind, patient, and generous; ask if your students and colleagues need help. While diversity in OEB has increased over the time I have been at UMass, our community still has no Black graduate students and very few Black faculty members. Among the important actions that we can take going forward is to consider why that is and how we can change it. I will be talking with our newly formed Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee about other actions that we can take to continue fostering the inclusive community we aim to be. I welcome and encourage others to contribute to this effort. The Ecological Society of America has shared a message that provides some helpful suggestions for becoming a positive force for change in our communities, our disciplines, and in the wider world: 

https://www.esa.org/esablog/ecology-in-the-news/news-events/letter-to-th...

One article I'd like to highlight provides a call for graduate advisors to openly discuss the impacts of racism with our lab groups:
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05646-4

Every member of our community is responsible for creating a safe, inclusive work environment. I encourage everyone to consider steps that they can take to help achieve this, both within OEB and at UMass Amherst. Individual actions matter, even small ones.

 

John Swenson wins Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship from the American Fisheries Society

John Swenson received the prestigious Steven Berkeley Marine Conservation Fellowship from the American Fisheries Society in the amount of $10,000. The committee praised his proposal as addressing "a subject of key importance in marine conservation." Way to go, John!

Lian  Guo, Elsa Cousins and Kadambari Devarajan win OEB Research Awards

Lian Guo received the Irwin Martin research award for her proposal on "Testing Thermal Sensitivity to Understand Differential Climate Effects in River Herring." The Irwin Martin Award is provided by a generous OEB donor to support graduate student research. 

Elsa Cousins and Kadambari Devarajan each received an OEB research grant award for their proposed research on secondary defense chemicals in non-native mustard (Elsa) and effects of species interactions on carnivore community structure (Kadambari).

Dr. Paige Warren Wins Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award

Paige Warren

OEB Graduate Program Director Paige Warren has been selected by the Graduate School as one of this year's three Distinguished Graduate Mentors. Each year, the Graduate School recognizes three outstanding members of the faculty based on nominations by their peers on the graduate faculty and supporting letters by students and colleagues. These nominations showcase the many ways in which faculty mentors provide extraordinary guidance in research, excellent teaching in both formal and informal settings, and strong support for students' professional development as they prepare for their chosen careers. This year's awards also recognize winners for making significant and consistent contributions to promoting diversity and inclusion in graduate education at UMass, and for supporting not only their own advisees but other graduate students as well.

Congratulations, Paige!

OEB students continue with their accomplishments this semester:

Joe Drake published a cool blog piece on collaborative research he is co-leading: https://appliedecologistsblog.com/2020/03/26/environmental-dna-from-rive...

Kadambari Devarajan's research was highlighted in an article by the Wildlife Society: https://wildlife.org/researchers-craft-roadmap-for-studying-wildlife-com...

She was also awarded a $10,000 National Geographic Early Career Grant and has joined the cohort of 2020 National Geographic Explorers. And she was selected to be one of 4 students from across the university to represent UMass at the CASE workshop organized by AAAS this year. Unfortunately, the workshop has been postponed due to the pandemic.

Jake Barnett, Laura Hancock, Mayrolin Morales, and Josh Moyer were awarded a UMass Natural History Collections scholarship for the summer.

John Swenson was awarded  a $7,300 Small Grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation to develop molecular resources that will help facilitate his thesis research on cownose rays.

Alex Winsor, first-year OEB student,  published a paper from his previous work:   “Methods for independently manipulating palatability and color in small insect prey” in PLOS One.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231205. 

Kit Straley was selected as Fish and Wildlife Service Directorate Fellow for the summer. The competitive program offers 11-week fellowships working on projects that support FWS Conservation priorities.

Seanne Clemente was awarded a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship,

Incoming student Katrina Smith received Honorable Mention for her NSF GRF application.

Congratulations to everyone!

Digital Life on Earth
UMass Amherst’s Digital Life Project creates visual records of critically endangered species

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The Digital Life Project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been revolutionary in creating visual records of critically endangered species in ways that technology has never allowed before.

The project team modeled the first-ever 3D image of a southern right whale after researchers used aerial photography and drone videos to measure the mass and volume of whales. Previously, the only way to weigh any whale was by using a dead or stranded animal. Using its innovative Beastcam array, the team has also produced the world’s first accurate 3D image of the southern white rhino.

Led by Professor of Biology Duncan Irschick, the Digital Life Project has gathered a number of global collaborators. Documenting southern right whales as they gathered at their winter breeding grounds off the coast of Argentina involved participants from the Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program and the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark. To create the visual of a rare southern white rhino, Irschick and team collaborated with the Perth Zoo in Australia, which volunteered its resident rhino, Bakari, to be photographed.  Read More

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