Plenary Session III – 2021 Student Award Speakers


The first recipient of the Murie Family Conservation Award is Dr. Jennifer A. Guyton, recent graduate from Princeton University and current National Geographic–Fulbright Digital Storytelling Fellow. Since 2013, Dr. Guyton has worked in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Africa. Her recent paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution on the control of the alien invasive Mimosa pigra in Gorongosa by large mammalian herbivores has given scientists important insights into the management of the habitats of those species. This is very relevant because Gorongosa National Park is fast recovering from a catastrophic decline in its large mammal population during the long period of the Mozambican civil war and its aftermath. In addition to her PhD research, Dr. Guyton participated in the parks small mammal surveys and eventually became the small mammal specialist, conducting surveys for mice, rats, shrews, and bats. She has since continued the biodiversity surveys each year for bats, having censused 37 species of bat in the park. The survey eventually lead to the discovery of three entirely new species of bat, some of which may only occur in the Park. Her research on bats in Gorongosa is soon to become its own field guide. Along with the extensive field based conservation biology work, she has made it a point to share her experience and her life through a camera lens. Through her photography of wildlife and African mammals, Dr. Guyton has become a National Geographic Explorer, Fulbright – National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow, and a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. She has won numerous awards with her wildlife conservation based photography, along the way writing articles for National Geographic and the BBC.


The 2020 recipient of the Albert R. and Alma Shadle award is Jesse Alston of the University of Wyoming. Mr. Alston has published in journals including Conservation LettersBiological Conservation, and Forest Ecology and Management. He has independently raised over $220,000 to support his research from numerous organizations, including the National Park Service, Prairie Biotic Research, the Wyoming Chapter of The Wildlife Society, and the American Society of Mammalogists. He has written about science, policy, and the environment for several public media outlets, including FiveThirtyEight and High Country News, and is on the pre-print editorial team at Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. He is an active member of ASM, serving on the Human Diversity, African Graduate Student Research Fund, and Biodiversity Committees, and has presented at the past two annual meetings. Mr. Alston’s dissertation work combines field research and analyses of a large biometric data set to link thermal ecology to behavior, reproduction, and biogeography in bats. He is also working on several additional projects concerning disease ecology, animal movement, demography, conservation, and open science. He plans to use funds from the Shadle Fellowship to expand the scope of his ongoing field research at Jewel Cave National Monument and to attend the next ASM annual meeting.


The recipient of the 2020 American Society of Mammalogists Fellowship is Jonathan Nations of Louisiana State University. Mr. Nations has received grants from the American Society of Mammalogists, The Society of Systematic Biologists, as well as a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. He is a recent recipient of the NSF Postodoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology. He has published work in Evolution, The Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society, and The Journal of Mammalogy. He has been a member of ASM for 9 years and has presented at 6 ASM meetings as well as the International Mammalogical Congress in 2017. He is an active member of ASM, serving on both the Nomenclature and Biodiversity Committees. Jon’s dissertation work focuses on the interplay of function, history, and ecology on morphological evolution. His work combines data from museum specimens with myriad methodologies, such as phylogenetic inference, 2D and 3D morphometrics, stable isotope ecology, and multilevel modeling, to investigate the role of locomotion in the generation and maintenance of diversity in a species-rich group of small mammals, the murine rodents. Museum collections form the keystone of his research, and he is passionate about combining specimen data with current technologies to better understand mammalian diversity. He plans to use his ASM Fellowship funding as support, and to continue building both specimen collections and collaborations in Southeast Asia.


The recipient of the 2021 Annie M. Alexander Award is Elizabeth Agpalo. Her expertise is in wildlife ecology and management, predominantly with bats. I recently finished my master’s degree in Environmental Sciences at Texas Christian University in December 2020 where my research involved investigating how bats used residential swimming pools as a water resource using thermal cameras and a variety of acoustic detectors. In addition, I have 11 years of bat research experience, including windfarm fatality monitoring in Kansas and Texas, passive and active acoustic transects monitoring using a range different ultrasonic detectors, bat call analysis using Sonobat and Kaleidoscope software, and behavioral observations using night vision technology. During 2 summer seasons in Missouri and Illinois, I mist-netted and radio-tracked female Indiana (Myotis sodalis), northern long-eared (Myotis septentrionalis), gray (Myotis grisescens), southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius), and eastern small-footed (Myotis leibii) bats, and used Anabat ultrasonic detectors and Analook software to collect and identify bat calls within the research areas. During the 2 winter seasons in Missouri, I conducted research in a lab monitoring white-nose syndrome on over 300 little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) per season, and monitored daily health and flight tests before release in the spring. Finally, I was involved in behavioral observations of bats in a controlled environment to explore ways to prolong the length of time radio-transmitters remain attached to bats. I hope to continue my career in this field of wildlife ecology and management.


The recipient of the 2021 Anna M. Jackson Award is Ben Wiens. Ben is currently finishing his M.S. in Biology at Kansas State University in Dr. Andrew Hope’s lab. His research focuses on the systematics and evolutionary history of the Pribilof Island shrew, which is endemic to St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. This endangered shrew was isolated from mainland sister taxa ~14 thousand years ago, and has since persisted under evolutionary pressures consistent with long-term isolation on small islands. Using traditional genetic markers coupled with a large genomic dataset, he investigated the evolutionary and demographic consequences of island isolation for this shrew in relation to its mainland counterparts. His research has implications for the conservation of this and other island species facing rapid contemporary climate change, and increases our understanding of the evolutionary forces that shape island biodiversity. Following his Master’s, Ben plans to continue research on the evolutionary biology of small mammals, with the goal of combining holistic small mammal collection with genomic approaches. He is particularly interested in studying the genomic basis of adaptation to changing environments, and in applying the results from this research to biodiversity conservation. To continue this research, he will soon join Dr. Jocelyn Colella’s lab at the University of Kansas to begin work on his PhD.


The recipient of the 2021 A. Brazier Howell Award is Carson Hedberg. Carson is a third year PhD student at the University of New Mexico studying mammal functional ecology in the lab of Dr. Felisa Smith.  Her research interests are broad, but all rooted in understanding and protecting the Earth’s biodiversity. In particular, she is motivated to apply insights from the fossil record to modern conservation challenges.  Her most recent research focused on how functional diversity and ecological resilience of a mammal community changed over the Late Quaternary in response to the megafaunal extinction and climate change. Her results highlight how prolonged biodiversity loss over time has eroded important ecosystem function and decreased redundancy behind ecological processes, heightening the potential consequences of present biodiversity decline. Her ongoing work seeks to understand how mammalian diversity is structured across various environments, and how restoring key functional roles can promote widespread ecological restoration. Her research interests in both paleoecology and modern conservation afford her a unique perspective to consider modern ecosystems within the context of historic and prehistoric ecological baselines. She hopes to pursue a career in research and conservation following the completion of her doctorate degree.


The recipient of the 2021 Elmer C. Birney Award is Miranda Crowell. Miranda is finishing her Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation biology at University of Nevada, Reno advised by Drs. Marjorie Matocq, the 2001 Birney award winner, and Kevin Shoemaker. Her dissertation is one part of a collaborative project about the general ecology, genetic connectivity, and demography of pygmy rabbits across the Great Basin. Specifically, she is investigating how pygmy rabbit populations vary spatially and temporally and factors that may contribute to or be influenced by those variations such as burrow use, environmental characteristics, and how relatives are spatially distributed in relation to each other. Miranda has been working with pygmy rabbits for 9 years and through her expertise she helped secure a grant from the Nevada Department of Wildlife to conduct postdoctoral research on how fine-scale pygmy rabbit movement contributes to population shifts across the landscape over time – an observation made during her Ph.D. She has been a member of ASM since 2014, published twice in Journal of Mammalogy, and has received several travel grants in addition to the Annie M. Alexander award in 2015. Miranda hopes to continue researching lagomorphs and how individual behavior scales up to population level patterns in the future.