The Yentsch-Schindler Early Career Award honors an early-career scientist for outstanding and balanced contributions to research, science training, and broader societal issues such as resource management, conservation, policy, and public education. Meghan Duffy is the 2017 recipient of the Yentsch-Schindler Award for her transformative research involving parasitism as a food-web process and her influential mentoring of undergraduate students. Duffy is an associate professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan. The award is given by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography. The award will be presented at the Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii February 26 – March 3, 2017.
In the 10 years since receiving her Ph.D., Duffy has established a vibrant and productive research program. Duffy’s research focuses on the ecology and evolution of host-pathogen interactions, with emphasis on the roles of food webs and “eco-evolutionary dynamics.” Her research on the role of predators in disease dynamics and demonstration of disruptive selection in evolutionary processes governing epidemics are cited by colleagues as some of her most influential work. Her work on Daphnia has upended traditional thinking that host evolution takes place on a longer scale. She demonstrated that Daphnia exhibit rapid evolution during disease outbreaks, leading to fewer susceptible individuals in the population. This in turn leads to a “breakdown in transmission,” a finding that contributes to the ongoing question in disease ecology of why epizootic outbreaks end. Her productive research program earned her a prestigious NSF CAREER award in 2011 and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2012. Duffy has also established herself as a leader in the field, by chairing the Aquatic Ecology section of the Ecological Society of America and serving on the editorial board for the journals, American Naturalist and Ecology and Evolution.
While building her research program, Duffy has continually mentored the next generation of scientists. She has involved students through every step of the scientific process – from piquing their interest via field trips to co-authoring scientific publications. She has mentored over 45 undergraduate students in her laboratory, and nearly 20 percent of Duffy’s publications include an undergraduate author. She has also engaged students outside of the laboratory, most notably through an innovative program she developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology using city park lakes to engage urban youth in Atlanta in limnology and plankton biology. The program was so successful that she was awarded the 2010 Georgia Tech Faculty Award for Academic Outreach.
Duffy’s voice is well-known outside of the aquatic sciences as well. Duffy is one of three authors of the online blog Dynamic Ecology, which has received over two million page views from over 500,000 unique visitors since its launch in July 2012. Her posts span a range of topics, but her candid discussions about work-life balance have resonated with her audience, which includes 5600 Twitter followers. Readers and colleagues view Duffy as a “model for early career women in academia, balancing research, training, service and family.”
“Meghan Duffy’s keen ability to design and combine field and lab studies and empirical models has established her as a rising star in evolutionary ecology. Her ability to use social media to convey research and the realities of life as an academic have made her a rising star in science communication. Combined with her commitment to mentoring and service, Meghan is an excellent role model for how to be a modern researcher. She is an excellent choice for the ASLO Yentsch-Schindler Award,” said ASLO President Linda Duguay.