UF graduate students recognized for Florida Museum research

June 26th, 2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History recently announced the winner of the coveted 2007 Austin Award, given annually by the Museum’s University Teaching Committee to recognize excellence in natural science research, and the 2007 Ripley P. Bullen Award, named after an influential Florida Museum archaeologist of the 1940s and 1950s.

Recipient of the Austin Award, Ashley Morris, graduated from the University of Florida with her Ph.D. in Botany in December and now is a faculty member at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Morris was nominated for the award by advisor Pamela Soltis, a curator at the Florida Museum.

“I was quite honored of course that she would consider the nomination, and even more surprised about winning given the quality of the work of my peers in the Florida Museum,” Morris said.

The award honors long-time Florida Museum curator of ornithology, Oliver Austin.

Morris’ research focuses on using genetic tools to study geographic gaps in the species distribution among plants. She studied North American plant species of eastern American and eastern Mexican descent and southeastern American and Greater Antilles decent, finding that many unrelated species have similar gaps in their geographic distribution.

The 2007 Ripley P. Bullen Award went to UF graduate student Reniel Rodriguez for his research in Caribbean archaeology at the Florida Museum while studying with museum curator Bill Keegan. His research includes: the introduction of agriculture and pottery production to the Caribbean islands, the interactions of the inhabitants of the Antilles with those of the areas of Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica, and the influence of the Archaic societies in the development of the Taino people of the Antilles.

“Perhaps this combination of ideas landed me this award,” Rodriguez said. “I feel very honored, particularly when taking into consideration that it is named after Ripley Bullen, whose immense contributions to the archaeology of the Antilles are widely recognized.”

The Bullen Award is given by the Florida Anthropological Society to recognize a scientist who furthers cooperation among professional and avocational archaeologists in the state.

Writer: Jessica Thurmond
Media contact: Paul Ramey, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu