Since 2012, the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Fellows Program has allowed students to immerse themselves in a wide range of biodiversity research within the state of Alabama.
Emma Arneson, a PhD student in biological sciences and Wilson Biodiversity Fellow, studies invasive crayfish and their impact on native crayfish in Alabama. The state has the largest number of species of crayfish in the country, and invasive crayfish often negatively impact the ecosystems in which they are introduced.
Arneson has sampled crayfish across the north and central regions of the state. The E.O. Wilson Fellows Program has allowed Arneson time to explore Alabama’s streams and rivers to test different sampling methods and practice the identification of the species of crayfish for her dissertation.
“The fellowship certainly helped pave the way for me to be ready to collect my data when the time comes,” Arneson said.
A graduate student studying biology, Joshua Millwood also has been able to gain valuable hands-on experience through the program. His research focuses on freshwater mussels in Alabama, studying how they adapt to their local habitats and respond to environmental changes at physiological and genomic levels.
With his research, he hopes to better understand how to protect species that help ecosystems thrive, such as by purifying water, throughout the state. The fellowship gave Millwood the opportunity to join other ecologists to survey mussels at various locations in the state to further build his knowledge.
“I would not have been able to have these experiences had it not been for the support from this fellowship and The University of Alabama,” Millwood said.