Alison Davis Rabosky won the 2021 Meritorious Teaching Award in Herpetology, presented by the Herpetology Education Committee (HEC). The award was presented at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists in Phoenix, Ariz., which Davis Rabosky attended virtually.

Emily Taylor, professor of biological sciences, California Polytechnic State University, the HEC committee chair, presented the award. “It is such a pleasure to be the committee chair who gets to award this to you. Your students truly love you, and in my esteem, that is the ultimate achievement,” she wrote in an email.

Davis Rabosky, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and assistant curator of reptiles and amphibians at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, said, “I’m really, really honored to be receiving this award – it’s a humbling and amazing recognition.”

Following are some excerpts from the letters of nomination:

“Her mentoring style inspires scientific curiosity through her unparalleled ability to weave together the importance of research, outreach, mentoring and historical context,” current and past members of the Davis Rabosky Lab wrote. “To all of us, the award acts as a tangible representation of the immense recognition that she deserves for all she has done to help and inspire students in the field of herpetology.” Current graduate student Hayley Crowell coordinated the successful nomination.

­­They cited the "overwhelmingly enthusiastic email responses” they received when asking for letters of support for this nomination, including: “YES! … Alison has completely re-inspired me this semester and I swear I am on a consistent high from the class!” and “I can’t think of anything I’d be more excited to do.” And “I think this ranks as my favorite email today!”

Her students also wrote, "Alison's lectures are among the most, if not the most, organized and engaging lectures we've ever seen in our combined time in academia."

And, “As the curator of reptiles and amphibians at the UMMZ, Alison carries on the legacy of past famous herpetology curators such as Alexander G. Ruthven and Helen T. Gaige. Alison shows immense respect for the museum collections and is deeply committed to ‘democratizing’ access to specimens to inspire the next generation of scientists.”

EEB Professor and Chair Patricia Wittkopp wrote, “The success of Dr. Davis Rabosky's mentees is fostered by her thoughtful approach to mentoring, which promotes the intellectual development and independence of her students while also providing a support system and structure that they can rely on and draw strength from when needed. In all of our conversations, it has been clear that Dr. Davis Rabosky is thinking about not only her mentee's academic success, but also their mental health and personal well-being.

"...when faced with the challenge of trying to teach a very hands-on class (Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles) in a remote format this year in response to the pandemic, she has not only risen to the challenge, but innovated to rise above it. Early on, she approached planning for the course by securing funds to purchase equipment needed to bring the students ‘into’ the collections by video rather than in person ... I will simply say that the sample lecture and supporting materials I reviewed were very impressive." 

The award is sponsored by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, the Herpetologists' League, and the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and recognizes superior teaching and mentoring of students in herpetology. Awardees are active teachers and mentors, with classroom teaching within the last three years and a substantial history of teaching excellence. The recipient receives $500 (U.S), an official letter and a plaque.

This excerpt from the nomination letter from her current and past students seemed a good one to end on: "...a good herpetologist gets you excited about herps, a good scientist gets you excited about the process of discovery, and a good mentor makes you feel like you belong doing all the above. Somehow, Alison has struck the perfect balance of doing all three. While it is true that Alison is a herper at heart (like most of us), there is no doubt that she has found the most successful way to channel this love into being a person that most exemplifies the definition of a Meritorious Teaching Award in Herpetology recipient."

Read more about Alison Davis Rabosky on her EEB webpage with many linked news articles, including a multi-media presentation from Global Michigan, The Evolution of Mimicry, and from Michigan News, First widespread chytrid fungus infections in frogs of Peruvian Amazon rain forests reported

Compiled by Gail Kuhnlein

Alison Davis Rabosky teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.