BioOne Ambassador Awards

2018 BioOne Ambassadors

The Winners

BioOne PROUDLY ANNOUNCES the winners of the 2019 BioOne Ambassador Award. This award honors early career authors who best communicate the importance and impact of their specialized research to the public.

These five individuals from five publications were selected from a large pool of nominees put forth by BioOne’s publishing community. BioOne invited nominees to submit a 250-word, plain-language summary answering the question:

What are the broader implications of your work, and how does your work impact the public at large?

The responses were thoughtful and enthusiastic, and we gratefully acknowledge each participant. Selection was difficult, and it is with great pleasure that we present the winners, in alphabetical order by society.

Dr. Ben Anderson

Dr. Ben Anderson

New species of scintillating Australian grasses!

In order to share knowledge about living creatures, we need to clearly name and describe them. Biologists who do the naming and describing are called taxonomists, and my research identifying eight new species of grass in Australia is an example of taxonomy. Why is my research important? Well, imagine you are about to start a mining operation in the dry Pilbara region of Australia. You know that you are allowed to disrupt the landscape, but that you are also required to restore it (and plants in it) after mining. To achieve restoration, you would first need to know what plants are growing there (so you can put them back after). This is where my research comes in. By showing that there are multiple species in the Pilbara and describing how to tell them apart, my results will help mining surveyors accurately characterise the plants growing on their mine sites.

A neat byproduct of exploring biodiversity is the discovery of new traits and features of living organisms. In my study of Australian grasses, I discovered species that had mysterious resinous droplets on their leaves. As it turns out, the droplets had a taste reminiscent of salt and vinegar chips! We don’t know the function of the droplets, but perhaps that will be discovered in the future. In the meantime, the novelty of the droplets and their distinctive taste has captured the attention of many, and has helped people to better appreciate the marvelous biodiversity in Australia.

This summary is in reference to:

A revision of the Triodia basedowii species complex and close relatives (Poaceae: Chloridoideae)
Australian Systematic Botany October 2017: Vol. 30, Issue 3 (Oct 2017), pg(s) 197-229.
Benjamin M. Anderson, Kevin R. Thiele and Matthew D. Barrett.

Kalhari Bandara Goonewardene

Kalhari Bandara Goonewardene, Ph.D. Candidate

Helping Chickens Cross the Road to an Alternative to Antibiotics

Raising healthy chickens is vital to ensure human health. Baby chicks on poultry farms often get sick from bacterial infections during the first week of hatching, resulting in the death of many chicks and severe economic losses for producers. The poultry industry previously used antibiotics to prevent infections, but these practices raised public health concerns including the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In response, the poultry industry is responsibly withdrawing from antibiotic use to ensure public health and safety and, actively searching for safe and effective alternatives to ensure poultry health. In my research, I used a nebulizing chamber to deliver a synthetic DNA as an aerosol directly to the lungs of newly-hatched chicks. This process stimulated the chicks’ front line defense mechanisms —their “innate immune system” — and significantly protected them against a deadly dose of E.coli. The treatment defended the chicks during their first week of life: protection was initiated within six hours of inhaling the synthetic DNA and lasted five days. It helped to improve the chicks’ clinical condition while clearing bacteria rapidly without any adverse effects on growth. 

Next, we collaborated with engineers and developed a large-scale poultry nebulizer so we could apply our findings in an industry setting. We performed field trials in two Western Canadian commercial poultry hatcheries, and our experience proved that this is a practical and feasible technique. What’s exciting is that our efforts will enhance poultry health and welfare and protect public health by minimizing the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment.

This summary is in reference to:

Intrapulmonary Delivery of CpG-ODN Microdroplets Provides Protection Against Escherichia coli Septicemia in Neonatal Broiler Chickens.
Avian Diseases Dec 2017: Vol. 61, Issue 4 (Dec 2017), pg(s) 503-511.
Kalhari Bandara Goonewardene, Shelly Popowich, Thushari Gunawardana, Ashish Gupta, Shanika Kurukulasuriya, Ruwani Karunarathna, Betty Chow-Lockerbie, Khawaja Ashfaque Ahmed, Suresh K. Tikoo, Marianna Foldvari, Philip Willson and Susantha Gomis.

Funding for this research was proivded by Western Economic Diversification Canada (WEDC), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC).

Dr. Robbie Hart

Dr. Robbie Hart

Medicinal Plants for Sustainable Livelihoods and Biodiversity Conservation

Wild medicinal plants are collected around the world by rural people who incorporate them into their own health care or sell them to supplement local incomes. But even as this practice continues, communities that collect wild plants often display uneven knowledge of their uses, marketing techniques, and sustainable harvest requirements. This knowledge gap has negative outcomes. Traditional knowledge can be lost if it is not valued and shared. Local economies are depressed as middlemen garner most of the profits. Wild plant populations may be overharvested and endangered. In this paper, my coauthors and I discuss our efforts to address these problems in Swat, a mountainous area of Northern Pakistan which is famed for natural richness but economically challenged by remoteness and inaccessibility. First, we worked with local communities to document the most important medicinal plants – species such as the highly valued and critically endangered Saussurea costus. Then, we conducted a range of interventions to foster economic and environmental sustainability. These included local awareness campaigns, capacity-building trainings, community mobilization for conservation of threatened species, and exposure visits to link collectors with buyers. 

Although the impacts are only beginning, our activities have given 200+ local collectors in Swat the resources to sustainably gather medicinal plants, authenticate them to potential buyers with botanical identifications, process them using methods that ensure maximum quality and income, and work together to share and advance their own knowledge. We hope Swat can be a global exemplar of how medicinal plant capacity-building can improve livelihoods and support conservation.

This summary is in reference to:

Promoting Sustainable Use of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for Livelihood Improvement and Biodiversity Conservation under Global Climate Change, through Capacity Building in the Himalaya Mountains, Swat District, Pakistan.
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 102(2):309-315. 2017.
Hassan Sher, Rainer W. Bussmann, and Robbie Hart.

Funding for this research was provided through the University of California Museum of Paleontology Research Grant for Non-Vertebrate Animals, a UC Berkeley Integrative Biology Summer Research Fellowship, a Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research, a Conchologists of America Academic Grant, and a Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Grant in Aid of Research.

Sarah Speck

Sarah Speck, Ph.D. Candidate

Growing Old in the Mountains

Outmigration in Nepal is a well-researched economic phenomenon: a stunning 30% of the country’s income comes from money sent home by migrants to their families. Various social impacts on those who remain at home are well-documented. But what of older people? They have been forgotten in studies to date. What happens when the younger generation is no longer there to take care of the elderly? Globally, population is ageing rapidly and the young keep on migrating. This is also observable in Nepal, especially in mountains, where villages are losing their workforce, affecting the rural landscape. Villages are increasingly inhabited by older people who normally would rely on the young to till their fields, support them when moving on steep terrain, and accompany them to village offices to fight for their right to a pension. Instead, Nepalese norms and values are changing abruptly: today, the young lack respect towards the elderly; traditional values are no longer valid. In addition, governmental support and the social insurance system are very fragile.

My study assessed older people’s viewpoints, revealing additional, un-researched challenges that outmigration brings for remote mountain regions. I believe we urgently need to explore outmigration in connection with demographic change, and its consequences on the local population and society at large – not only in Nepal but in many other mountain areas worldwide, particularly in the Global South. The implications of these two drivers puts pressure on the ability of governments to take responsibility and provide resources for ensuring livelihoods of the elderly.

This summary is in reference to:

“They Moved to City Areas, Abroad”: Views of the Elderly on the Implications of Outmigration for the Middle Hills of Western Nepal.
Mountain Research and Development 37(4):425-435. 2017.
Sarah Speck

Funding for this research was proivded by the University of Zurich.

Dr. Larry Wood

Dr. Larry Wood

Home Is Where the Heart Is: The Hawksbill Turtles of Palm Beach
“It’s 10:00 PM. Do you know where your turtles are?” Unusual question, but how fortunate I am to be asked! Interestingly, many folks harbor a fondness for turtles, especially sea turtles, that isn’t extended to much of the rest of the reptile world. This twist of fate has helped them become inspirational characters in the global effort to affect marine conservation. On Florida’s east coast, sea turtle nests (often conspicuously roped off with stakes and caution tape) are as familiar to the locals as surfboards and sandcastles. People genuinely care about them, and many communities have become inspired to make their beaches as ‘turtle friendly’ as possible to encourage their return. In contrast, the young hawksbill sea turtles I study don’t come ashore, instead they inhabit Florida’s coral reefs. Reefs are fragile, diverse, and important to both ecologies and economies, but difficult to protect. From diving, I suspected hawksbill sea turtles reside there. By tracking them with satellite transmitters, I found I could not only peer into their mysterious daily lives, but also reveal this place as their home, and maybe, just like the beach, help justify its safekeeping. What did we find? Among many other things, we confirmed that the turtles do reside there, and, by the way, are safely asleep in their favorite underwater caves every night by ten. Have we permanently saved their home? Not yet, but we’re proud to make our contribution, and history shows that familiarity leads to empathy, one step at a time.

This summary is in reference to:

Home Range and Movement Patterns of Subadult Hawksbill Sea Turtles in Southeast Florida.
Journal of Herpetology 51(1):58-67. 2017.
Lawrence D. Wood, Barbara Brunnick, and Sarah L. Milton.

Funding for this research was provided by through Florida Atlantic University, the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate Grants Program (administered by the Sea Turtle Conservancy), the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation, and private donors to the Palm Beach Zoo.

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