James L. Carmon Scholarship
Peter Pietrzyk, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Plant Biology, applies his strong computational and quantitative background to improve drought-resistant crop breeding. How well a plant tolerates drought can depend on its capacity to develop a deep root structure for water acquisition. Pietrzyk is developing computational methods that will improve scientists’ ability to perform root measurements and identify how root structures and other phenotypic characteristics respond to stressors. His machine learning algorithms have generated reproducible results on root-hair measurement in common bean, corn and rice that were previously impossible to obtain using conventional, manual measurement methods. As human populations continue to expand rapidly, intense droughts are becoming longer and more frequent. With an unusual combination of transdisciplinary skills and creativity, Pietrzyk is developing technologies that will provide crucial data in the global effort to design new, drought-tolerant plant varieties and expand edible yields.
James L. Carmon Honorarium
Claire Teitelbaum, a doctoral candidate in the Odum School of Ecology, is developing a set of network models to understand movement patterns and pathogen transmission among nomadic white ibis populations in rapidly urbanizing Palm Beach County, Florida. White ibis, a waterbird, have a radically different diet and potentially higher exposure to pathogens such as Salmonella at urban sites in the county compared to natural sites. Teitelbaum uses GPS-derived field data to track when and where individuals travel across this habitat network. She will identify land cover attributes associated with the network’s different habitats and quantify individual birds’ movements, providing clues about how and when Salmonella could spread. Unlike many other existing disease models, Teitelbaum’s research includes a spatial component that will help quantify how urbanization affects disease dynamics across many different sites. She will provide a template for integrating movement data and disease modeling that could be applied to many emerging and zoonotic diseases in human-modified landscapes.