Several biology alumni and present faculty members recently participated in the 2021 American Society of Mammologists Meeting, which marked the organization’s 100th annual conference.
Faculty fueling research
In Dr. Sean Maher’s lab, the research specialty is small mammal ecology.
“This includes exploring environmental predictors that shape where small mammal communities emerge and thrive,” Maher, associate professor of biology, said.
The research focus involves local field work in glades, prairie remnants as grasslands and MSU’s Bull Shoals Field Station.
Dr. Tom Tomasi, biology professor, shares active involvement in field work.
In his lab, they investigate the hibernation habits of bats. This interest has led him to collaborate with Dr. Christopher Lupfer, assistant professor of biology, in studying bats’ immunology.
“We look at how the immune systems of different bat species function or fail to while they hibernate,” Tomasi said. “This is key to understanding a bat pandemic called white-nose syndrome, which has probably killed about a million bats a year since apparently spreading from a New York cave in 2005.”
Involvement in ASM meetings allows Maher and Tomasi to form connections with other research, as well as those who fuel the research process.
Several alumni of theirs and other faculty in the department share this interest.
Student alumni as continuing scientists
The alumni who shared original research presentations at the 2021 ASM meeting include:
Adkins studies the distribution habits of woodrats and the impact of diet diversity on rodent lineages.
Adkins presented a presentation titled “Where woodrats meet: Estimating current and historical zones of secondary contact between species of Neotoma.”
Maher and Marjorie Matocq co-authored the project.
Adkins also presented “Dynamic evolution of detoxification gene islands in New World rodents and relationships to dietary novelty.”
This was co-authored by:
- Matthew Holding.
- Alexandra Coconis.
- Stephanie Galla.
- Nathan Byer.
- Miranda Striluk.
- Elise Connor.
- Anna Himler.
- Josh Jahner.
- Lilly Whitehead.
- Shelby Burdo.
- Kara Barnao.
- Robert Greenhalgh.
- M. Denise Dearing.
- Michael Shapiro.
- Jennifer Forbey.
- W. Brian Simison.
- James Henderson.
Beasley focuses her research on small mammals and landscapes, including the biogeography of glades as part of her master’s degree.
She presented “Dealing with nondetection: Ecologically informed priors improve Bayesian model estimates of missing species.”
Green investigates conservation concerns of hoary bats and silver-haired bats.
She presented a presentation titled “Local trends in abundance of migratory bats across 20 years.”
Several contributed to this project:
- Liam McGuire.
- Mark Vanderwel.
- Craig Willis.
- Matthew Noakes.
- Shelby Bohn.
- Eric Green.
- Mark Brigham.
Harman looks at the variables that impact chipmunk populations’ survival, including those related to climate.
She presented “Identifying potential interactions that mediate the distributions of Neotamias in the Western United States.”
Kayce Bell and Maher co-authored the project.
A standout in the field
Green received this year’s ASM’s Fellowship in Mammalogy for her work.
The fellowship includes a $20,000 award to help fund her research.
“The award recognizes Dana as an outstanding student who has made significant contributions to the society, as well as to the broader field of mammalogy,” Maher said. “She has put a lot of work into the society and will continue moving forward with excellent research.”
Joining the ASM Board of Directors
Maher and Green were appointed as ASM Board of Directors members at the meeting.
Tomasi completed three nonconsecutive terms on the board. He served as the board’s vice president for one term.
The board role allows for engagement in several key tasks, including:
- Overseeing committee decisions, including allocation of ASM’s annual budget.
- Authorizing incorporation of new or modified policies into the society’s bylaws.
- Approving new members of the society.
“The ASM board provides important oversight of operations,” Tomasi said. “Members have a variety of perspectives and represent generations of institutional knowledge.”
Different research angles, shared value in conservation
The alumni who participated in the ASM meeting covered a wide variety of research interests.
“Each approached conservation from a different angle,” Maher said, “covering behavior, evolutionary factors and geographical contexts.”
These areas not only represent diversity in conservation, but also in the skills of CNAS alumni.
“The work presented at the meeting shapes understanding of the broader mammalogy field and of the varied skills and ideas alumni of the college can contribute to the scientific community,” Maher said. “CNAS students can start at Missouri State and go anywhere.”
Maher is grateful to ASM for providing an opportunity for diverse research and researchers to come together.
“The American Society of Mammalogists always provide a welcoming environment for scientists to unite their passion for mammalogy,” he said. “Each meeting brings new connections and friendships that members can carry throughout their careers.”