BioOne Ambassador Awards

2020 BioOne Ambassadors

The Winners

BioOne PROUDLY ANNOUNCES the winners of the 2020 BioOne Ambassador Award. This award honors early career authors who best communicate the importance and impact of their specialized research to the public.

These six 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. Chris Murray

Dr. Chris Murray

Hidden Predators in the Vaults of Museum Collections

Protecting diversity for future generations is a human responsibility, but how can we protect a species that we don’t know exists? Better yet, protect 12-foot crocodiles hiding in plain sight? The tropical Central highlands and delta lowlands of Papua New Guinea contain a secluded, remote and stunning array of diversity worthy of an Indiana Jones adventure. The number of species found nowhere else on earth makes this area a unique biodiversity hotspot and the number of species inhabiting the island might be more than meets the eye.

Even the New Guinea Crocodile, a 12-foot long modern dinosaur, showed incredible differences in breeding between crocodiles north and south of the highlands.

We considered this observation and asked whether the northern and southern crocodiles are on different evolutionary paths, thus different species. Instead of packing our field gear for a jungle expedition we studied museum specimens stored in natural history collections. Using imaging techniques and shape quantification methods, paired with genetic and ecological data, we discovered a new species of crocodile, Hall’s New Guinea crocodile, from the southern side of the Central Highlands; a species hiding in plain sight in natural history museums around the world.

This new species highlights the importance of museum collections as vaults of diversity and discoveries waiting to be explored. Our study also calls for conservation efforts that will keep this new crocodile that was hiding in plain sight around for our grandchildren to enjoy.

This summary is in reference to:

Divergent Morphology among Populations of the New Guinea Crocodile, Crocodylus novaeguineae (Schmidt, 1928): Diagnosis of an Independent Lineage and Description of a New Species
Copeia, 107(3): 517-523. 2019.
Christopher M. Murray, Peter Russo, Alexander Zorrilla, Caleb D. McMahan

Christoph Leineweber
Anke Cordula Stöhr

Christoph Leineweber and Anke Cordula Stöhr

Helping to Understand and Save Tortoises by Studying Their Blood

Hibernation is important for the health of many species like the Hermann’s tortoise and for their survival during the cold winter season. Tortoises that cannot hibernate often develop liver and kidney diseases and have a reduced reproductive activity. Our results show that seasons (changing temperature and light cycle) and sex influence the whole body of the tortoise, as seen in changes in their blood values over the course of the year. We don’t yet know much about the physiology and blood values of many reptile species. But knowledge about normal values in healthy individuals are the basis for conservation and for diagnosing disease.

But why study Hermann’s tortoises? These animals are often kept as pets and are ambassadors for the conservation of declining wild populations of this and other reptile and amphibian species. Due to global warming and other environmental changes, many reptile species are globally declining, while data for many others is not available. Since reptiles cannot self-regulate their body temperatures, they are particularly sensitive to such changes. The results of our study extend the knowledge of reptile physiology, providing information that can be used in future studies in wild animal populations to maintain biodiversity, and help to improve the veterinary treatment of loved individual reptile patients.

This summary is in reference to:

Changes in Plasma Chemistry Parameters in Hermann’s Tortoises (Testudo hermanni) Influenced by Season and Sex
Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery, 29(3-4): 113-122. 2019.
Christoph Leineweber, Anke C. Stöhr, Sabine Öfner, Karina Mathes, Rachel E. Marschang

Dr. Matt George

Dr. Matt George

Helping Mussels Hang On

What would you do if the temperature in your house periodically became sweltering hot for days before dropping back to normal? What if the thermostat couldn’t be fixed? Unfortunately for marine mussels, moving isn’t an option, and this may be why they are disappearing on shellfish farms worldwide!

You may not have heard, but mussels are a lot like Spiderman, except underwater. Mussels can attach to almost anything using sticky threads, a superpower that shellfish farmers rely on to get them onto your plate. Farmers cover ropes with baby mussels and hang them in the ocean, where mussels feast on microalgae. The problem is, before farmers can harvest them, mussels are falling off of ropes; it’s becoming increasingly common, and we don’t know why.

To investigate, I partnered with shellfish farms in Washington State to measure the mussel’s habitat. We found that when you grow mussels on ropes, the seawater in mussel clumps can become acidic and have less oxygen than normal, sometimes for hours, even days at a time. In the laboratory, mussel threads exposed to these conditions were easier to pull off of surfaces, but could recover if treated with regular seawater.

Through our partnership, two mussel farms in Washington are now part of a global network that tracks seawater conditions in real-time. Our hope is that this monitoring network can help scientists figure out why the underwater thermostat breaks, while empowering farmers to time harvests so that mussels reliably end up in your linguine.

This summary is in reference to: Microscale pH and Dissolved Oxygen Fluctuations within Mussel Aggregations and Their Implications for Mussel Attachment and Raft Aquaculture
Journal of Shellfish Research, 38(3): 795-809. 2019.
Matthew N. George, Jessie Andino, Jonathan Huie, Emily Carrington
Fernando Medrano Martínez

Fernando Medrano Martínez

From the Deep Sea to the Aridest Desert in the world: A Story on the Atacama’s Storm-Petrels

Can you imagine that there are breeding seabirds in the middle of the driest desert of the world, and that even there, they are under considerable threat because of human activities? In our research, we discovered breeding colonies of the Markham’s storm-petrel (Oceanodroma markhami)—a 50-g seabird—in the middle of the Atacama Desert, with almost no other living creatures present. This phenomenon is very exceptional for petrels, a group of birds that spend most of their lives at sea, and only see land during breeding.

Our discoveries suggested that other little-known storm-petrels could also be breeding there. In fact, during our research we also found the very first known breeding colony for the Ringed storm-petrel and for the White-vented storm petrel, for which little information was formerly available.

Unfortunately, this research also uncovered an ecological tragedy. Several thousands of storm petrels die every year due to the light pollution caused by cities and industrial complexes, under what were formerly the clearest skies of the world. Artificial light cause the birds to be disoriented when flying to sea from the colonies. In addition, there were plans for installing industrial projects at the breeding colonies themselves.

On the other hand, we used our article in Ardea for assessing the global risk classification of the species. Also, was the foundation for a new conservation plan for the species, which encompasses initiatives for creating protected areas at the breeding colonies, and reducing light pollution in the Atacama Desert.

This summary is in reference to: Breeding Phenology, Distribution and Conservation Status of Markham’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma markhami in the Atacama Desert
Ardea, 107(1): 75-84. 2019.
Rodrigo Barros, Fernando Medrano, Heraldo V. Norambuena, Ronny Peredo, Rodrigo Silva, Felipe de Groote, Fabrice Schmitt
Dr. Auriel M.V. Fournier

Dr. Auriel M.V. Fournier

Managing Public Wetlands for Multiple Wetland Birds
Nominated by the Waterbirds Society

We have lost many of our wetlands globally, despite their importance for cleaning water, absorbing heavy rains, and providing habitat for plants and wildlife. Many remaining North American wetlands have been cut off from the natural patterns of flooding and drying by the leveeing of major rivers. These wetlands require active management to maintain healthy wetlands. Part of active management is the intentional flooding and drying to mimic natural floodplain patterns. The timing of drying and flooding is especially important to make sure habitat is wet when the animals need it, since habitat available after a migratory bird has left, doesn’t help that species. Wetland managers often try to balance many needs, such as providing habitat for migratory birds and opportunities for humans to hunt or birdwatch. Meeting all these needs can be challenging, especially without complete information about the outcomes of different choices. Conversations with wetland managers in Missouri, USA, led us to answer the question ‘How do two groups of wetland birds who migrate at different times respond when we flood wetlands earlier in autumn migration?’ We found that rails, who migrate earlier, use earlier flooded wetlands earlier more than wetlands which are dry during their migration. Ducks, who migrate later, had no difference between earlier or later flooded wetlands, as both had water during their later migration. Being able to flood earlier to provide habitat for rails without a hurting ducks is a win-win for the birds, and the people who enjoy and wish to conserve them.

This summary is in reference to:

Evaluating Tradeoffs in the Response of Sora (Porzana carolina) and Waterfowl to the Timing of Early Autumn Wetland Inundation
Waterbirds, 42(2): 168-178. 2019.
Auriel M. V. Fournier, Doreen C. Mengel, Edward Gbur, Andy Raedeke, David G. Krementz

Meetthe Judges

Stacey Baker

Stacey Baker

Stacy Baker is a public engagement program associate for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Prior to joining AAAS in 2016, Stacey received her Master’s in Biology (American University) with a thesis in evolutionary genetics, and a Bachelors in Zoology (SUNY Oswego). She went on to study molecular biology at the National Institutes of Health and then taught biology courses at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD. When not talking to Lyft drivers about scicomm, she can be found rock climbing, reading in a park or checking out the best coffee and pastries she can find in DC!
Maisie Buntin

Maisie Buntin

Maisie Buntin holds a B.S. in Zoology and Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and earned an M.S. in Anthropology and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her academic background has allowed her the Maisin opportunity to work in research settings as well as in STEM education. In her current position as Outreach Program Coordinator at the Milwaukee Public Museum, she works to bring science programming to communities across the state of Wisconsin.
Fiona Muir

Fiona Muir

Fiona Muir is the digital content officer and part of the communications team at the Francis Crick Institute in London, one of Europe's largest biomedical research institutes. Before joining the Crick, she completed an MSc in science communication at Imperial College London and worked in the editorial team at Taylor & Francis Group’s journal division, most recently managing a portfolio of chemistry journals.
BioOne extends its thanks to Stacey Baker, Maisie Buntin, and Fiona Muir, who offered their time and expertise in selecting this year’s winners.
BioOne Publishing
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