Three University of Michigan scientists, including Daniel Rabosky, have been selected as the first recipients of a new annual award, funded by President Mark Schlissel’s Biosciences Initiative, to recognize exceptional mid-career faculty in the biosciences.

The award is called MBioFAR, for Mid-career Biosciences Faculty Achievement Recognition. It provides discretionary funds — $250,000 per year for two years for each awardee — to encourage innovative, high-risk research.

“The MBioFAR awards recognize some of U-M’s most outstanding faculty — the mid-career researchers who are at the forefront of our university’s leadership in the biosciences,” Schlissel said. “I commend the awardees for their academic accomplishments, professional achievements and exceptional ongoing promise for future discovery.”

Dan Rabosky holding a joey and daughter, Maya, age 16 months, during fieldwork on lizard ecology in a remote area of Western Australia. Image: Alison Davis Rabosky

Rabosky is associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and associate curator at the Museum of Zoology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Rabosky is a highly influential ecologist and evolutionary biologist, focused on answering the question: What is responsible for the tremendous amount of biodiversity on Earth? To address that question, he develops novel statistical methods to understand the rates at which species form and go extinct.

In the field, Rabosky studies snakes and lizards in some of the world’s most biodiverse regions, including South American rainforests and Australian deserts. He is also a great communicator of science. His research group’s YouTube video about Amazonian spiders has received about 2.7 million views.

“This award provides a genuine opportunity to try new things and to seek new directions that we would not have been able to pursue otherwise. The MBioFar program really drives home what a wonderfully supportive environment we have here as scientists at U-M,” Rabosky said.

The MBioFAR program is designed to operate like an internal MacArthur “genius” award and aligns with the Biosciences Initiative’s goal of strengthening research and education in the biosciences across the university.

The award supports the type of high-risk, high-reward research that is often not funded by conventional granting agencies. It was created to help ensure continued extraordinary productivity and impact, and a high level of job satisfaction, from the university’s most outstanding biosciences faculty members at the most productive phase of their career.

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