Meek Recognized for Marine Conservation Research
Mariah Meek, assistant professor in the Michigan State University Department of Integrative Biology (IBIO) in the College of Natural Science, has received a prestigious 2020 Early Career Conservationist Award from the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) for her outstanding contributions to the conservation of marine and freshwater ecosystems using genomic data.
All award winners are nominated by SCB groups that work regionally or topically to implement the society’s mission to bridge the gap between the science and practice of conserving Earth’s biodiversity.
The Conservation Genetics Working Group (CGWG), which is interested in the application of genetics to the conservation of biological diversity, was impressed by Meek’s many scientific contributions and demonstrated commitment to collaboration and communication with stakeholders, including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). CGWG noted Meek’s ability to conduct cutting-edge conservation genomics research while also showing dedication to the application of such research in conservation.
“I’m very honored to receive an Early Career Conservationist award from the Society for Conservation Biology,” Meek said. “The incorporation of science in developing solutions to the world’s conservation problems is so vital, and I’m proud to be a part of that process. It is an honor to be recognized for my work advancing our ability to use genetics to improve conservation and management.”
Meek and her lab conduct cutting-edge genomic studies to address pressing problems in the conservation and management of the world’s biodiversity. Research focuses primarily on exploring the ecological and evolutionary processes that generate and maintain diversity within and among populations as well as identifying the molecular basis for life history trait diversity. This research combines field and lab work to study both wild and captive populations, with an emphasis on aquatic systems.
One of the lab’s current research projects involves studying how drought versus flood years influence the run composition and abundance of juvenile Chinook salmon in the floodplain (Yolo Bypass) versus the main stem of the Sacramento River, where the current population of Chinook salmon in the California Central Valley represents less than 75 percent of its numbers in the 1950s. They are sampling juvenile Chinook from the Yolo Bypass and areas along the Sacramento River to evaluate habitat use over time, genotyping these samples with an innovative SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) panel to identify individuals to the run level.
“This study will help us answer important questions about the impact of water conditions on the different runs of Chinook,” Meek said. “It will also provide important information on the loss of genetic diversity due to environmental or anthropogenic changes in the Sacramento River.”
“Conserving Earth’s biodiversity in a rapidly changing world will be one of the great challenges over the next several decades and Mariah is helping us meet the challenge,” said Thomas Getty, IBIO department chair. “She has shown great skill in developing and applying cutting-edge genomic tools and applying them effectively. Her research, teaching and service are central to the IBIO mission. We are very pleased to have her as a colleague and to see her important contributions recognized by the Society for Conservation Biology.”
For more on the award and the complete list of 2020 winners, visit https://conbio.org/publications/scb-news-blog/scb-announces-award-winners-for-outstanding-contributions-to-biodiversity-c.
The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) serves as the premier international membership society for professionals, students and nonprofits dedicated to advancing the science and practice of conserving biodiversity. SCB’s Conservation Genetics Working Group is a global community that aims is to promote the incorporation of genetic studies into the wider field of conservation and to improve the way results of genetic studies are communicated to the broader conservation audience.