Ecology professor receives fellowship

Courtney Lewis

Ruth Shaw, University professor of ecology, evolution and behavior, was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship earlier this month for her work with evolutionary consequences of fragmentation in plants.

The award will help support a research sabbatical Shaw will take next year in southern France.

“It’s really an ideal location to work with colleagues on these challenging issues,” Shaw said.

Every spring, professors around the country are awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation’s fellowship award. The 2002 fellowship was given to 184 scholars and scientists around the country and totaled $6.75 million in grants.

Obtaining this grant will allow Shaw to continue working on the study of spontaneous mutation in plants and the evolutionary effects of those changes.

She said she’s working to examine the severity of these mutations on the purple coneflower, research originally began by her advisee, Stuart Wagenius.

Shaw received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1976 and her doctorate. from Duke University in 1983. She said Minnesota’s ecology department appealed to her research interests.

“It’s a very strong department,” Shaw said. “There are a lot of stimulating colleagues.”

Evolutionary studies were appealing to Shaw, and she said she wanted to explore mutation’s source in genetics.

“An important concept to understand is how genetic mutation occurs in the population,” Shaw said. “It is the ultimate source of genetics in any population.”

Next year, Shaw will remain an adviser to her graduate students via e-mail, and she said she plans to return to the University in fall 2003.

Any discoveries will require Shaw to request further funding, which she said the National Science Foundation would help provide.

Shaw’s current research will be funded in part by the Guggenheim Fellowship, with additional funds from the NSF until 2005.

“I proposed to work on some pretty challenging questions, so I hope some progress will be made,” Shaw said.

Shaw will share the research she discovers in France with the graduate seminar in which she regularly participates, Shaw said.

She said she hopes students who wish to explore ecology will make an effort to begin research.

“I certainly encourage anyone who thinks they might be interested in this subject to pursue it,” Shaw said. “It’s been very intellectually stimulating.”

 

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