EEB graduate student Giorgia Auteri is the recipient of the 2020 Donald W. Tinkle Scholarship from the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology. UMMZ’s most prestigious student award is a special recognition of research excellence and is intended to assist students in completing their doctoral research.
Auteri researches genetic changes in bats as they evolve in response to the disease white-nose syndrome. “This can help us better understand how rapid adaptation occurs in animals and how bats cope with the disease.” Auteri and her advisor, Professor Lacey Knowles, published the first genetic evidence of resistance in some bats to white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that has decimated some North American bat populations. The study, published in February 2020 in Scientific Reports, involved northern Michigan populations of the little brown bat, one of the most common bats in eastern North America prior to the arrival of white-nose syndrome in 2006. Since then, some populations of the small, insect-eating bat have experienced declines of more than 90 percent.
At the UMMZ, Auteri helped get deceased bat specimens accessioned into the collection, rather than their previous fate of being incinerated. She will be a curatorial assistant in the mammal collection this summer and was a curatorial assistant in the insect collection previously. Auteri is mentoring an undergraduate student, Olivia Ngo, in the Knowles lab. Ngo, who used the Overt diceCT (soft tissue scan) data to look for endoparasites in bat specimens in the collection, won a blue ribbon award for her project at the UROP conference.
The Tinkle Scholarship is awarded in Professor Tinkle’s memory. Fittingly, the award committee considers nominees in light of Tinkle’s life and special qualities as an evolutionary biologist. He was an inspiration to his contemporaries.
Tinkle joined the University of Michigan in 1965 as professor and curator of reptiles and amphibians. At U-M he taught Comparative Anatomy, and two new courses that he designed with colleagues: Evolutionary Biology of the Vertebrates and Evolutionary Ecology. He became director of the Museum of Zoology in 1975 and served until his death in 1980.
He received many honors during his scientific career. He was elected a fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science and Herpetologist’s League. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979, and in 1980 was awarded the eminent Ecologist Award of the Ecological Society of America.
He was the author of more than 80 scholarly papers. His published research demonstrated a unique and valuable balance of empirical and theoretical approaches to critical problems in ecology and evolutionary biology. He pioneered life history studies of reptiles and was one of the first to accomplish detailed, long-term experiments on natural populations.
Tinkle was also an exceptionally talented teacher, who excelled in undergraduate courses. His most important legacy is the group of students and colleagues he inspired. In the field, especially, he was known for his enthusiasm, endurance and sense of humor.
Read more about Auteri’s research and previous awards: On U-M Gateway: First genetic evidence of resistance in some bats to white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungal disease
Read more about Dr. Donald W. Tinkle
Compiled by Gail Kuhnlein