Department of Biology

  • Emma Terry wins 2023 Miss UAB Scholarship Competition

    Terry also won the Social Change, Talent and Spirit awards, earning a total of $3,300 in scholarships.

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  • Stinnett selected for a prestigious program by the Society of Research Administrators International

    SRAI’s Future of the Field program aims to highlight the up-and-comers of research administration who demonstrate exemplary, innovative leadership among their peers and institutions that advance the field.

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  • College of Arts and Sciences alumni receive NAS awards

    The UAB National Alumni Society hosted its annual meeting honoring the recipients of the 2022 Alumni Awards and the UAB Young Alumni Rising Star Awards.

    On Friday, September 23, 2022, the UAB National Alumni Society (NAS) hosted its annual meeting and awards dinner honoring the recipients of both the 2022 Alumni Awards and the UAB Young Alumni Rising Star Awards. This was the first time that recipients for both awards were be acknowledged at the same event.

    In total, the NAS distributed five Alumni Awards at the event, including: Honorary Life Membership Award, Honorary Alumni Award, Distinguished Alumni Award, Outstanding Young Alumni Award, and Volunteer of the Year Award.

    Along with the Alumni Awards, the NAS honored recipients of the UAB Young Alumni Rising Stars Award. This award was established to recognize young alumni who have “demonstrated an ability to excel personally and professionally while committing time and energy in service to the University and local community.” In total, five alumni received the UAB Young Alumni Rising Star Awards at the September 23 event.

    The College of Arts and Sciences would like to acknowledge and celebrate six stellar alumni from the College who were honored at the event.

    Congratulations to the following two alumni for winning Alumni Awards:

    Distinguished Alumni Award

    Dr. Kierstin Cates Kennedy, World Languages and Literatures with a concentration in Spanish, 2002

    Kierstin Cates Kennedy, M.D., is Chief of Hospital Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor at UAB Medicine. The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to a UAB graduate whose professional and community accomplishments are outstanding. The recipient must be one who is distinguished in his/her profession or other worthy endeavors, has demonstrated a continual interest in UAB, and who is a member in good standing of the UAB National Alumni Society.

    Volunteer of the Year Award

    Adam Roderick, Psychology, 2009

    Adam Roderick is the Manager of Learning and Development at Milo's Tea Company. The Volunteer of the Year Award is given to an individual who has dedicated their time and effort to improving the University through volunteerism.

    UAB Young Alumni Rising Stars Awards

    Also, congratulations to the following four alumni for winning UAB Young Alumni Rising Stars Awards:

    • Briana Bryant (Communication Studies, 2018) – Southern Research
    • Dr. Bliss Chang (Biology, 2015) – Columbia University
    • Dr. Zachary “Kane” Jones (Psychology, 2012) – United States Air Force
    • Hernandez Stroud (History, 2010) – Brennan Center for Justice

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  • Aging: incorporating healthy habits for improved longevity

    Everyone will experience aging, but can a person enhance their aging through simple modifications? UAB experts say yes.

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  • UAB students selected for prestigious Gilman International Scholarship and Freeman-ASIA award

    Nine students were awarded a Gilman International Scholarship — the largest cohort from UAB.

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  • Austad’s new book explores lessons humans can learn about aging from the long lives of certain animals

    “Methuselah’s Zoo” explores how knowledge of animal species can benefit human lives in terms of fitness and longevity.

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  • $12.5 million grant aims to help researchers better understand aging differences between females and males

    Researchers from UAB and other institutions are seeking to better understand the aging differences between males and females.

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  • Williams selected as a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar

    Taylor Williams of the Department of Biology was recently named a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

    Photo Courtesy of Taylor Williams. Taylor Williams, a doctoral student in the Department of Biology, was recently named a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

    According to NOAA, the competitive Nancy Foster Scholarship Program provides support for independent graduate-level studies in oceanography, marine biology, or maritime archaeology, particularly to women and students from underrepresented communities.

    This year, the organization selected seven graduate students from across the country for the scholarship. Each scholarship recipient will receive an annual stipend of $30,000 and up to $12,000 annually as an education allowance. Additionally, recipients may receive up to $10,000 to support a 4–6-week research collaboration at a NOAA facility.

    Williams, who is from Orcutt, California, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biology under faculty advisor Stacy A. Krueger-Hadfield, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biology. Her research will focus on a cryptogenic alga that is acting invasively within the boundaries of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), a U.S. National Monument and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. According to Williams, Chondria tumulosa is a red macroalga that was found growing in dense mats and smothering the coral reefs at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll) and Kuaihelani (Midway Atoll) within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i. She will be using a combination of population genetic analyses and laboratory experiments to assess the reproductive system of this alga.

    "The Nancy Foster Scholarship provides me the opportunity to work directly with our NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Program to use our science to best meet the needs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument while also bridging the gap between science and place-based community outreach," said Williams.

    Williams completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa where she first became involved with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a scientific diver. She then earned her Master of Science in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston under Dr. Heather Spalding before coming to UAB.

    “The Nancy Foster Scholarship will afford Taylor the exceptional opportunity to continue work on Chondria and collaborations with researchers in Hawai'i and at the College of Charleston,” said Krueger-Hadfield. “We will be gaining valuable data with direct benefits to understanding the natural history of organisms in the PMNM as well as population genetics in organisms that undergo both sexual and asexual reproduction. Surprisingly, we don't have good tools for this and the Chondria data Taylor generates during her dissertation research will be invaluable to testing theoretical predictions in different biomes and ecosystems.”

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  • McClintock has a story to tell

    For Jim McClintock, Ph.D., Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology, storytelling may be the key to fighting climate change.

    A compelling story can change the way people think, feel, and act. For Jim McClintock, Ph.D., Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology, storytelling might also be the key to fighting climate change.

    “20 years ago, I decided that I would exploit my love of writing and speaking in order to transcend what most scientists do when it comes to giving a lecture on climate change,” said McClintock. “I want to use storytelling as a tool to get this message out.”

    And that’s exactly what he’s done.

    McClintock—a world-renowned marine biologist, researcher, professor, and author who focuses his work on the ecological impacts of climate change on marine life in Antarctica—has published two books in the past 10 years: Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land and A Naturalist Goes Fishing. Both are nonfiction “trade books” that have reached tens of thousands of people across the world. That said, McClintock wants to further expand his audience and continue to sound the alarm about the implications of climate change. His plan? Write a novel with complex characters set in Antarctica.

    “I plan to use Antarctica as the backdrop,” said McClintock. “It will be built around the kinds of imagery and challenges that only Antarctica could bring to bear—that’s where my expertise comes in... If you can get a novel to take off, you have the potential of getting the narrative of climate change out to many millions of people.”

    And, for McClintock, the message needs to reach people as soon as possible. Earlier in the summer, he was invited to join an Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) cruise through the Arctic. McClintock served as a scholar and lecturer on the ship, commenting on the sights—and changes—the 150 voyagers were witnessing as they navigated Svalbard, Greenland, and Iceland.

    “What’s happening in the Antarctic, like all polar environments, is also happening in the Arctic,” said McClintock. “Polar environments are excessively sensitive to climate warming. A little increase in temperature has a huge impact.”

    In Svalbard, for example, waterfalls stunned the A&K passengers. According to McClintock, when he visited the same site ten years earlier, he saw the beautiful cliffs and sea birds—but not waterfalls. Although the cascading water was impressive, McClintock believes that the new water is the result of melting ice.

    As the cruise continued to Greenland, the passengers soon found themselves navigating a band of nutrient-rich water, which drew an array of marine mammals. “When you come off of the Svalbard Islands, you cross a shelf—this is an underwater platform—and the shelf hits this slope…and it drops steeply about 5,000 feet down to the deep ocean. What happens when you have a steep wall is that the deep nutrient-rich water… hits the slope and comes shooting up and concentrates nutrients in a very narrow band of several miles,” said McClintock.

    “We penetrated that band of rich water and… saw four species of whales all in the same field of vision. We saw humpbacks, minkes, fin, and sei. To top it off, in the midst of all those whales feeding, there was a pod of white-beaked dolphins... Then there was a raft of several hundred Harp seals,” said McClintock. “To see humpback whales combined with three other species of whales and seals and porpoises, was, for me, a first in my life.”

    For over an hour and a half, the voyagers watched the spectacular display. Thinking back to these moments, McClintock lamented: “This vast richness in marine life is now increasingly threatened by climate warming and ocean acidification. Arctic marine mammals are particularly vulnerable because the food they consume, whether plankton or fish, are experiencing declines in abundance with rapid climate change.”

    The next stop on the trip was Greenland. When they arrived, McClintock was pleasantly surprised to see large, healthy polar bears—that said, several of McClintock’s expedition colleagues aboard a past A&K Arctic cruise had witnessed two polar bears foraging among birds’ nests and eating the eggs and chicks rather than hunting for seals.

    “As the sea ice disappears… they’re going to continue to have challenges,” said McClintock. “One small population of polar bears have learned recently that they can hunt on glacial ice—so, instead of hopping from sea ice floe to sea ice floe like they normally do, they’re hopping from floating bits and pieces of glacial ice. It’s an example of adaptation to climate change.”

    Thankfully, McClintock was able to share this insight with the passengers on the cruise in real time. For the general public, witnessing polar bears leaping from one piece of glacial ice to the next might be a treat. During the A&K cruise, people learned that there’s much more to the story.

    And, although the trip is over, the story continues. Whether it’s lectures on Arctic or Antarctic cruises, fictional books set in Antarctica, or visual art, McClintock plans to continue seeking ways to effectively (and creatively) share the story of climate change and prompt real action.

    “When I get a guy coming up and saying, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard this stuff and now I really believe it’s happening and I didn’t before,’ that’s huge for me. It may be only one or two people after a talk, but you never know how far that goes,” said McClintock.

    Others are joining his storytelling circle too, including a group of professional theatre actors who recently staged a performance of Ushuaia Blue a play scripted by New York playwright Caridad Svich, loosely based on McClintock’s life and book, Lost Antarctica. The theatrical production was featured at the recent prestigious Contemporary American Theatre Festival at Shephard University in West Virginia, and McClintock made the trip to see it. The performance brought tears to his eyes—and, unsurprisingly, it also prompted meaningful questions from the cast after the show.

    “I met [the actors] after the production… I’ve given them all copies of Lost Antarctica. They wanted to know all about Antarctica; they wanted to know about climate change,” said McClintock.

    Perhaps his strategy is working, one story at a time.

    McClintock leads A&K expedition cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic each year. For more information contact him at mcclinto@uab.edu.

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  • Amsler selected as 2022 Sigma Xi Fellow

    Margaret “Maggie” Amsler, M.S., a polar marine biologist and researcher in the Department of Biology, was recently named a 2022 Sigma Xi Fellow.

    Margaret “Maggie” Amsler, M.S., a polar marine biologist and researcher in the Department of Biology, was recently named a 2022 Sigma Xi Fellow. In total, only ten scientists received this distinction in 2022. The cohort will be recognized during the International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE), which will take place in Alexandria, Virginia on November 2-6.

    Sigma Xi is a Scientific Research Honor Society, and it was founded in 1886 at Cornell University. Currently, the honor society has approximately 60,000 members across the world. According to Sigma Xi, “[t]he Fellow of Sigma Xi distinction is awarded on a competitive basis to members who have been recognized by their peers. Fellows must be an active (dues-paying), full member for the last 10 years continuously, or a life member, with distinguished service to Sigma Xi and outstanding contributions to the scientific enterprise.”

    Amsler arrived at UAB in 1996, and she has visited and conducted research in Antarctica for over 30 years. She has researched various subjects during her many visits to Antarctica, ranging from Antarctic krill to deep-sea king crabs. She works alongside her spouse, Charles Amsler, Ph.D., and Jim McClintock, Ph.D., Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology — both faculty members in the Department of Biology. After a brief hiatus from traveling to Antarctica, Amsler will return in December 2022 to further research the impact of ocean acidification on marine organisms.

    According to Sigma Xi, Amsler received the fellow distinction “for distinguished accomplishments and personal rejuvenation of the University of Alabama at Birmingham chapter of Sigma Xi and integral involvement in growth of membership.”

    For Amsler, the distinction is significant. “I am truly honored to be recognized by Sigma Xi for my scientific accomplishments and service to the Society,” said Amsler.

    “I am particularly pleased to be recognized for my scientific contributions. As a career marine biologist with a master’s degree, it is really quite special to be distinguished with a cohort of Ph.D.’s,” said Amsler. “My fellow chapter officers and I strive to support Sigma Xi’s mission by hosting monthly seminars ranging the science and engineering disciplines and encouraging our invited speakers to share the zeal and passion for their research with attendees who include undergraduates to emeriti and members of the general public.”

    Learn more about Amsler’s research.

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  • In Remembrance: Ricardo Tapilatu

    The environment and conservation recently lost a major warrior. University of Alabama at Birmingham alumnus Ricardo Tapilatu (Ph.D., 2014, Department of Biology) tragically passed in Indonesia during a scuba expedition with students while trying to preserve some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world.

    The environment and conservation recently lost a major warrior. University of Alabama at Birmingham alumnus Ricardo Tapilatu (Ph.D., 2014, Department of Biology) tragically passed in Indonesia during a scuba expedition with students while trying to preserve some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world.

    Ricardo Tapilatu, Ph.D., UAB biology alumnus, tagging a female leatherback sea turtle.Ricardo was world-renowned for several decades of his work trying to save the most endangered population of sea turtle in the world, the giant Pacific leatherback sea turtle. Ricardo documented the long-term decline of this species which helped energize the international conservation program to prevent it’s extinction. He and his students also protected the most important nesting beach for this species in the western Pacific Ocean. Further, he helped document this species unique and amazing biology, including its 6,000-mile-plus trans-Pacific migrations from the nesting beaches in Indonesia to foraging grounds along the Pacific coast of the U.S.  

    But Ricardo’s impact and legacy extends well beyond his dedication toward the stewardship of the environment. Ricardo was a scholar, a dedicated mentor of students, a colleague, and to those who knew him, friend and family.  Ricardo’s unique, natural, and “down to earth” personality was contagious. That is what makes “leaders” and that epitomized Ricardo. 

    I continually think about his vibrant personality and laugh, and his ability to positively affect others, including here at UAB. Ricardo’s passing is a tragedy but his life is a classic example of how individuals can have a significant and lasting impact on the environment and the future of society.

    By Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biology

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  • UAB graduate students receive Alabama EPSCoR Graduate Research Scholars Program Round 17 awards

    Five UAB graduate students received more than $118,000 in awards to strengthen graduate research projects.

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  • Birmingham Promise scholar credits on-campus living as critical to her success

    Supporting on-campus housing for Birmingham Promise scholars would enhance the well-rounded collegiate experience students aim to receive while at UAB.

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  • New summer program preps UAB freshmen for a budding doctor’s biggest test: Bio 123

    PEER-BUDS will counter COVID disruptions and school inequity by prepping 24 new biology majors with skills crucial to success in the lab and classroom. Another perk of the program, which runs Aug. 1-19: a $1,500 stipend.

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  • Study: Expert-led discussions change student perceptions of COVID vaccines

    After undergraduates in introductory biology courses talked with an epidemiologist and a physician specializing in infectious diseases, 60% who initially said they would not get vaccinated had changed their minds.

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  • Three UAB students named 2022 Goldwater Scholars

    Recipients receive a scholarship equal to the amount of their tuition, housing, fees and books up to a maximum of $7,500 per academic year.

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  • 22 faculty receive grants to fund developmental projects at UAB

    The grant program funds early-career faculty to advance their skills and careers across campus and beyond.

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  • 22 faculty receive grants to fund developmental projects

    The UAB Faculty Development Grant Program supports junior faculty with funding to pursue research, creative works and scholarly activity.

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  • Celebrate 15 books authored by CAS faculty in 2021

    Writing a book isn’t easy, but faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences produced more than a dozen in 2021. Thirteen faculty from eight departments wrote books on rhetoric and the Dead Sea Scrolls, pandemic bioethics, medical epigenetics, world politics and more.

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  • These faculty have worked at UAB for 50 years — here’s what sticks out to them the most

    Vithal K. Ghanta, Joseph G. Van Matre and Richard J. Whitley all have worked at UAB for five decades. Hear their short and sweet most favorite memories from their times as Blazers.

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