FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rosenstiel Students Come Out on Top
Marine Biology and Fisheries Students Receive NSF Fellowships;
Accolades Again for the Baker Lab
Virginia Key, Fla. —
Four University of Miami (UM)
Marine Biology and Fisheries students have received recognition
from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Ross Cunning and
John Parkinson were awarded fellowships for their research on
coral reefs in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Baker, an assistant
professor in the Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries at
UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric
Science. This marks the second year in a row in which two
of Baker’s students have received these prestigious
fellowships. Additionally, fellow Rosenstiel students, Sean
Bignami and Kevin V. Brix, received Honorable Mentions from the
Cunning, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., graduated in 2007 from
Duke University with a degree in Biology and Environmental
Science. Prior to joining Baker’s lab at the
Rosenstiel School, Cunning studied the microbial ecology of
corals at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., with Dr.
Kim Ritchie. Last year he received an Honorable Mention
in the NSF competition.
At the Rosenstiel School, Cunning has been studying the
interactions between corals and their symbiotic algae and
bacteria in order to understand how differences in symbiont
comunities affect the ecology of corals, especially in relation
to climate change. The types of algae and bacteria associated
with corals are important factors in determining the ability of
corals to tolerate environmental stress, including rapidly
warming oceans. Variation and flexibility in these
symbioses may be a key mechanism by which corals can
acclimatize to environmental change.
John Parkinson, a native of Warwick, N.Y., graduated summa
cum laude from UM with a Marine Science and Biology degree
in May 2009. He began to work at the Rosenstiel School
after he received a Summer Fellowship in 2006, and has
continued to work primarily in Baker’s coral lab.
Parkinson also spent a semester abroad at Australia’s
James Cook University to study corals in the Great Barrier
Parkinson was awarded the NSF fellowship for his proposal to
examine the response of coral larvae and their symbiont
communities to stressors associated with climatic change, such
as rising sea temperatures and increased ocean acidity.
This summer, he will begin his graduate degree in Biology,
working with Dr. Iliana Baums, a Rosenstiel School alumnus
currently at Pennsylvania State University.
For two consecutive years, students in Baker’s laboratory
have received these coveted fellowships. Last year,
Rachel Silverstein and Nitzan Soffer were recognized with
Graduate Research Fellowships from the NSF.
Sean Bignami received an Honorable Mention from the NSF for a
proposal on the carry-over effects of conditions such as high
and low food availability between life stages of larvae,
juveniles, and adult marine fishes. Bignami, who is
working with Drs. Su Sponaugle and Robert Cowen, will
participate in both field and laboratory experiments, use
aquaculture for raising larvae in captivity. Bignami
entered the Ph.D. program at the Rosenstiel School in summer
2008 after he earned his degree in Aquatic Biology from the
University of California, Santa Barbara.
Kevin V. Brix also received an Honorable Mention from the NSF
for his research on the evolutionary physiology of
osmoregulation in aquatic organisms. Working with Dr.
Martin Grosell, he is using pupfish, Cyprinodon
sp., as a model organism to comparatively investigate
the sodium transport mechanisms fish have evolved to
osmoregulate in fresh water environments. Brix entered the
Ph.D. program at the Rosenstiel School after earning his degree
in Biology from the University of North Florida, where he
graduated summa cum laude in 2008.
About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
Founded in the 1940’s, the University of Miami’s
Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown
into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric
research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary
academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping
communities to better understand the planet, participating in
the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the
improvement of society and quality of life. For more
information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu