Three cheers to Alison Gould, EEB graduate student, who has recently been awarded a trio of grants.

Gould’s Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant proposal titled, "The evolutionary ecology of a vertebrate-microbe symbiosis,” was awarded $17,510 for two years by the National Science Foundation. Gould is examining the population genetics of a bioluminescent symbiosis involving the coral reef cardinal fish, Siphamia tubifer, and the luminous bacterium, Photobacterium mandapamensis, in Okinawa, Japan. Symbiotic associations between fish and specific types of luminous bacteria are biologically important components of many marine ecosystems, and their persistence depends on their biological specificity. 

“With this award I will define the fine-scale population genetic structure of both symbiotic partners to determine the role of the host fish in maintaining symbiont specificity over time,” Gould said. 

“Understanding how specificity arises and is maintained is especially important now, as changes in the marine environment, such as increases in sea surface temperature and acidification, are occurring more rapidly. These changes have the potential to de-couple symbiotic associations by altering the ecology of both organisms.

“Specifically, I will be testing the olfactory preferences of the bioluminescent fish, Siphamia tubifer, relative to the fish's homing and site fidelity behavior that I have recently described. In other words, I will determine which chemical cues in the water the fish is able to detect and whether an individual fish has an affinity for particular cues that it could use to recognize a ‘home’ reef.”

Gould was awarded $6,000 for the Rackham Graduate School’s Susan Lipschutz Award, which she will use to support fieldwork in Okinawa this summer. 

The Susan Lipschutz Award recognizes Rackham students who have demonstrated exceptional scholarly achievement, a sense of social responsibility and service, and a lively interest in promoting the success of women in the academic community.  

Dr. Susan S.  Lipschutz was a distinguished member of the University of Michigan community, loved and respected by her friends and colleagues. A magna cum laude graduate of Smith College, she earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Michigan in 1969. As senior associate dean of the Rackham Graduate School and associate provost in the Office of Academic Affairs, Dr. Lipschutz worked diligently to improve graduate education by creating a program that built a sense of community among faculty and graduate students.  After her untimely death in 1997, her friends and family created the Lipschutz Fund to honor her memory and to support graduate students in perpetuity.

In addition, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Foundation awarded Gould $4,550 to support her Okinawa field research. The PADI Foundation encourages and supports underwater science, environmental projects, and education. The foundation funds and assists worthwhile projects that will enrich mankind's understanding of the aquatic environment and encourage sensitivity to and protection of the delicate ecological balance of underwater life.

"It's wonderful to see this recognition of Alison's hard work and dedication,” said her advisor, Professor Paul Dunlap. “The Siphamia - Photobacterium mutualism is an emerging model system for analysis of vertebrate - microbe interaction, and Alison's work is opening up the behavioral ecology and population genetics of the association in exciting ways."