University of Texas biologist to receive David Starr Jordan Prize

  • Feb. 10, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Daniel I. Bolnick, professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin, has been selected to receive the David Starr Jordan Prize for innovative contributions to the study of evolution, ecology, population and organismal biology.

Bolnick, an evolutionary biologist, will become the seventh recipient of the prize during an award ceremony at Indiana University Bloomington on March 2. IU President Michael A. McRobbie will present the award.

Indiana University, Cornell University and Stanford University established a joint endowment in 1986 to fund the prize in honor of David Starr Jordan (1851-1931), a scientist, educator and institution builder of enormous influence on higher education in the United States. Jordan had important ties to each of the universities.

He joined the Indiana University faculty in 1879 as a professor of natural sciences and was appointed IU’s seventh president in January 1885 at the age of 34.

The David Starr Jordan Prize is international in scope and presented to a young scientist, no older than 40, who is making novel, innovative contributions in one or more areas of Jordan’s interest: evolution, ecology, population and organismal biology. The intent of the prize is to recognize young scientists whose research contributions are likely to redirect the principal foci of their fields.

Bolnick was nominated for the prize by Peter C. Wainwright, professor of evolution and ecology at University of California, Davis, and Bolnick’s doctoral mentor. He was selected by a committee of faculty from IU, Cornell and Stanford.

“I believe his greatest strength, and the factor that sets him apart, is his mastery of so many areas of biology,” Wainwright said. “He is an ecologist with a remarkable ability to integrate across speciation, microevolution, genetics and immunology. He is a once-in-a-generation scientist and may already be one of the top evolutionary ecologists in the world.”

Bolnick will receive a $20,000 cash award and a commemorative medal. He will attend the awards ceremony and present a lecture at IU, and he will visit the other two sponsoring institutions, where he will also give a scholarly presentation about his research.

Bolnick’s research interests lie at the intersection of ecology, evolution, behavior and immunology. He strives to understand how interactions among individuals and among species affect the evolution of biodiversity, with a particular emphasis on host-parasite and predator-prey interactions. He currently uses natural variation in wild fish populations as a tool to understand the evolution of host-parasite interactions and immune function.

By studying the ecological and genetic factors influencing patterns of infection by parasitic helminths (worms) in sticklebacks (fish), Bolnick seeks to understand how immune responses evolve. His research on the impact of natural selection on immunity establishes connections between principles of evolution and medicine.

His lab’s projects entail cutting-edge techniques from genomics and population genetics -- including association mapping, studies of sequence and expression of candidate genes and transcriptomics -- as well as functional studies of immune performance using artificial infection experiments and flow cytometry analyses of immune cell biology.

Bolnick is one of a small number of evolutionary biologists who have been named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientists. He is also a recipient of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation Fellowship.

Other ongoing projects in Bolnick’s research lab include ecological interactions and the maintenance of genetic variation within populations, ecological consequences of phenotypic variation within populations, evolution of assortative mating and speciation, extent of evolution repeatability, the effects of non-random gene flow on adaptation and population divergence, evolutionary and ecological determinants of niche width and evolution of male color in stickleback.

The David Starr Jordan Prize will be presented at 4 p.m. Monday, March 2, in Jordan Hall A100. Bolnick will give a lecture on "Variation within populations: Why is it there and why should we care?" A post-lecture reception will be held in the Jordan Hall atrium.

Previous prize recipients from Indiana University include Distinguished Professors Jeffrey D. Palmer in 1991 and Loren Rieseberg in 1998.

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Daniel Bolnick | Photo by University of Texas at Austin

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