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The endowment supports year-long fellowships for doctoral candidates pursuing dissertation research in the area of Diversity of life and organisms in their natural environments. Funded by the Stengl-Wyer Endowment, fellowship recipients will receive a 12-month stipend of $34,000, full tuition and fees, staff health insurance, and an allowance of $2,000 to cover research and travel expenses. Learn more about the Stengl-Wyer Graduate Fellows program by clicking here.

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Kristina Black is a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Misha Matz, and has an M.S. in wildlife ecology from UW-Madison. She currently studies genetic adaptation for coral restoration in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her research finds genotype-environment associations to understand how corals adapt to various environmental gradients. During the annual coral spawn, she crosses genotypes from disparate environments and conducts reciprocal transplants on the offspring to determine local adaptations. As a Stengl-Wyer Fellow, she will explore parental effects in a coral species with high conservation concern to identify genotypes that produce offspring with the highest chance of survival in a national park, which can hopefully improve the strategy of breeding efforts in coral restoration.

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Jeffrey Coleman uses diverse tools—including genetics and genomics, chemical ecology, and neurobiology—to characterize the biology and shed light on the biodiversity of tropical ecosystems. Specifically, Jeff works with advisor Dr. David Cannatella to investigate poison frogs of the Neotropics, which sequester skin toxins from an arthropod diet. The current thrust of the work is to disentangle whether diet or genetic ability to sequester contributes more to differences in chemical defense levels between species with strong defenses and bright colors (bright colors are used to advertise the defenses to predators) and species with weak defenses that rely on camouflage for predator avoidance. A native Midwesterner (from Chicago), Jeff received his B.A. in Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he completed an honors thesis on comparative dental morphology in Neotropical monkeys. Before starting his doctorate, Jeff also spent three years at the Field Museum of Natural History studying population genetics of Neotropical toucans and immunogenomics of West Nile virus-resistant crows.

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Sarah Ortiz is a PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Amy Wolf. She is broadly interested in the stoichiometric, ecological, and biogeochemical ramifications of different nutrient acquisition strategies in plants, particularly those involving facilitative soil microbes and other belowground interactions with the goal of understanding how these effects are mediated by plant traits as well as the abiotic environment. As a Stengl-Wyer Fellow, she plans on exploring these ideas using N-fixing plants to understand the physiological and stoichiometric constraints of N-fixation using a combination of greenhouse and theoretical methodologies.

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Xinyi Yan is a PhD candidate co-advised by Dr. Caroline Farrior and Dr. Amy Wolf. She studies the role of plant-soil microbe interactions in mediating plant coexistence and community assembly. As a Stengl-Wyer Fellow, she will utilize a multi-year biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiment at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory to study the link between plant diversity/composition and soil fungal diversity/composition, and how precipitation and herbivory may further modify this link. This project aims to disentangle the feedback between aboveground and belowground biodiversity and can provide insights on plant and soil restoration.