Dean E. (Doc) Metter (1932-2001) was a long-time member of the biology faculty at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he taught zoology, comparative anatomy, evolution, and herpetology. A believer in putting knowledge to the test in the field, Doc provided frequent opportunities for students to engage in fieldwork. In addition, he frequently assisted his graduate students as they ventured out to collect data. Doc was a co-founder of the Bobby Witcher Society, the legacy of which is a scholarship fund. For many years, the interest earned served to reward outstanding herpetology students who intended to continue their education and seek a career in vertebrate biology. That fund now serves a similar purpose by honoring Doc’s memory while helping to fund the SSAR-administered Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. Proposals for the Metter Award are due on 30 March each year.
The purpose of the Award is: (1) to honor the memory of Dean E. Metter; (2) to encourage students to pursue field research in herpetology; and (3) to facilitate field research in herpetology by providing funds for relevant expenses.
Grants made from the award will be no less than $300 and no more than $1,000. Efforts will be made to fund as many eligible proposals as possible.
Applicants must be currently enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student in an accredited college or university and be conducting field-based research in herpetology. This research may occur anywhere in the world, but priority will be given to research conducted in the state of Missouri.
Expenses eligible for funding include: (1) travel expenses (e.g., mileage, airfare) associated with the field research project; and (2) equipment for field-based research (e.g., materials for drift fences, traps, etc.). Funds may not be used for salaries or any other personnel expenses, travel to meetings, equipment or supplies for laboratory-based research (even if applicable to the project), or overhead or indirect costs.
CRITERIA FOR AWARDS
The following criteria will be used to make awards:
A. Scientific merit of the proposed project.
B. Nature of the proposed project; priority will be given, in order, to proposals that fall into the following categories:
- Natural history studies (e.g., habitat utilization, life tables, demography, reproductive strategies, behavior).
- Functional morphology (i.e., relationships between structure and function, particularly as these relate to natural history parameters).
- Biogeographic studies, including elucidation of biodiversity in a given area (e.g., regional or national biotic surveys), efforts to determine historical events leading to current distribution patterns, and effects resulting from introductions of alien species.
- Evolutionary studies (establishing phylogenies based on morphological or genetic criteria).
C. Relevance of the field component to the overall execution of the proposed project.
APPLICATIONS AND AWARDS
In keeping with the Society’s goal of encouraging participation by the broadest possible community, preference may be given to individuals who might not have access to other funding sources. All applicants must be members of the SSAR. Past recipients of an SSAR GIH award in any category are not eligible for this award. Each proposal must include the following:
- TITLE PAGE giving the title of the project, the name, mailing address, office and home telephone numbers and, if possible, fax number and e-mail address of the applicant. The title page should include a statement indicating that applicants “will comply with all applicable permit regulations, and adhere to all appropriate animal care guidelines in the course of conducting funded projects.”
- BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES of the proposed project.
- METHODS for carrying out the project.
- COMPLETE PROJECT BUDGET (indicating for which expenses support is being solicited), including a listing of all current and pending support for the project.
- BRIEF RESUMÉ of the applicant.
- LETTER OF SUPPORT from the research advisor, which also will serve to confirm enrollment at an accredited institution. The proposal must be typed, double spaced, and must not exceed 1,200 words, excluding title page, literature cited, CV (resumé), and budget.
Proposals should be submitted electronically as email attachments. Submit proposals or questions regarding application procedures to the Co-Chairs of the Metter Award Committee, Dr. Brian Miller (Brian.Miller@mtsu.edu) and Dr. Dustin Siegel (email@example.com).
DUE DATE AND TIMELINE
This award is granted annually. All proposals must be submitted no later than 30 March to be considered; SSAR dues must be paid by the preceding 31 December. Failure to meet these guidelines may result in elimination of a proposal from consideration. Awards will be announced around late April. Successful applicants are encouraged to submit the results of their research for publication in the Journal of Herpetology or Herpetological Review, or to present their findings at the annual meeting of the SSAR.
Grace Vaziri is one of two 2022 winners of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. She is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut (major advisor: Sarah Knutie). Grace’s Ph.D. research examines energy allocation strategies in Wood Frogs to determine if they evolved to match historic winter conditions; if so, she predicts future warmer winters may affect metrics of organismal health, including immunity. She is also examining if immune gene expression varies between artificial hibernation temperature and historic winter conditions of Wood frog populations.
Brendan Enochs is one of two 2022 winners of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. He is a first year MS student in Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut (major advisor: Elizabeth L. Jockusch). Brendan’s M.S. research examines the role of climate in the maintenance of color pattern polymorphism in Red-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus).
Haley Moniz is the 2021 winner of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. She is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno (major advisor: Chris Feldman). Her proposal is entitled “Identifying selective pressures of dietary specialization and adaptive toxin resistance in garter snakes (Thamnophis),” and her research will add an ecological context to the co-evolutionary arms race model of Thamnophis/Taricha predator/prey interactions.
Kaitlyn Murphy is the 2020 winner of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. She will be starting her third year on her Ph.D. at Auburn this coming fall, with two advisors: Daniel Warner and Mary Mendonca. Prior to matriculating to Auburn, Kaitlyn attended Iowa State University, where she received a BS in Biology in 2018. While at Iowa State, she worked with Fredric Janzen and completed an honor’s thesis on how nest temperatures alter emergence by neonatal Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta). Kaitlyn’s dissertation research examines the influence of habitat type on the gut, cloacal and eggshell microbiomes in Anolis sagrei. Specifically, she is examining how maternal spatial variation influences the eggshell microbiome in an ecologically relevant context, and she predicts that the forest habitat will generate greater microbial diversity than the shoreline habitat and that gut, cloacal, and eggshell microbiomes will exhibit similarities with each other.
Neil Balchan is the 2019 winner of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. He is a master’s student in Stephen P. Mackessy’s at the University of Northern Colorado. Balchan’s undergraduate work was done at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg in Evolution and Biodiversity. Neil’s undergraduate honor’s thesis was on the autumn phenology of a population of red-sided garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis). His masters’ research deals with rattlesnake venom resistance in Colorado rodents. He is looking at the interactions between two rattlesnake predators and selected rodent prey populations in southeastern Colorado and his research will examine the state of prey resistance to the predators. His advisor writes that Neil’s “work has the potential to shed important light into aspects of co-evolutionary adjustments that occur in predator-prey relationships, but in a novel and multiple component system”.
Arianne Messerman is the 2018 winner of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. The award committee was unanimous in recommending Arianne Messerman for this year’s award. Arianne is a doctoral student with Manuel Leal in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her bachelor’s degree is in Biology from Kenyon College and she completed a master’s degree in Environmental Management (Concentration: Ecosystem Science and Conservation) from Duke University. She requested funds from SSAR to be used to continue field work in Missouri on an assemblage of Flatwoods Salamanders. Professor Leal writes that “she developed a project that integrates field-based ecological measurements, laboratory-based physiological measurements, and experimental manipulations to evaluate the potential contributions of physiological and life- history traits to the current and future distribution of salamanders.”
Kelly Robinson is the 2017 winner of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. She is a member of Rulon Clark’s laboratory in the Biology Department at San Diego State University and has finished her first year on a master’s program. Kelly’s undergraduate work was done at the University of Iowa in the Biology Department. Kelly put together a very well written proposal to investigate variation in venom resistance between populations of the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri), the Red Diamond Rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber) and two mammalian prey species (California Ground Squirrels, Otospermophilus varegatus; and Desert Wood Rats, Neotoma lepida) in southern California. Her proposal impressed the committee in several ways. Among those was the exceptional writing and organizational skills that were used to construct a very cogent and mature proposal from a student just beginning her research. The second feature that especially impressed the committee was that this study had a strong field component as well as supporting laboratory work. This will increase the chances of adding meaningful information to the published literature on the co-evolution of predator-prey interactions in this system, as well as others.
Matthew McTernan is the 2016 winner of the Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. He is in the Biology Department at Western Washington University in the laboratory of Roger Anderson. His bachelor’s degree is in Zoology from Auburn University. He has requested funds from SSAR to be used to complete his final season (the 3rd) of field work this coming summer in Washington state, where he is comparing the behavior and physiology of a single subspecies of the lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, in three different climatic zones in Washington (a site in the Puget Sound area, one in the North Cascades, and the third along the Columbia River). His research incorporates both a field component as well as laboratory work on behavioral and physiological differences between the three populations.
Carmen Harjoe, the 2015 winner of the Metter Award, is a student in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University. She is an PhD student studying the population status of Western Toads, Anaxyrus boreas, in southeastern Alaska. Her major professor is Andrew Blaustein. Carmen’s undergraduate work was in Fisheries and Wildlife with a minor in Biology at the University of Missouri—Columbia where Metter taught herpetology and other life sciences courses for over 30 years. She took herpetology there from Carl Gerhardt and Richard Daniel and did research in Carl’s laboratory.
Brenna Forester, a PhD student at Duke University in the Nicholas School of the Environment, is the 2014 winner of the Metter Award. Her dissertation advisor is Dean Urban. Forester’s proposal is entitled: Evaluating the Implications of Local Adaptation, Habitat Connectivity, and Gene Flow for Terrestrial Salamanders under Global Change. She will use molecular techniques to detect adaptation, habitat connectivity, and levels of gene flow in natural populations of the eastern plethodontid salamanders Plethodon cinereus and P. welleri which inhabit areas in fragmented and warming habitats. One important general goal of the study is to determine actions that will be effective in conserving salamander biodiversity under a global change regime.
Mitch Tucker is a Ph.D. student in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri; his major professor is Carl Gerhardt. Mitch’s proposal was entitled, “Behavioral Consequences of Polyploidy in Gray Treefrogs, Hyla chrysoscelis.” A key component of the proposal hinges upon being able to generate autopolyploid frogs in the lab which Tucker is able to do with a “cold-shock” treatment developed by he and Gerhardt. The committee thought Tucker’s proposal was especially innovative and experimental and takes an approach involving fieldwork as well as laboratory work to provide insight to a particularly interesting biological system.
(1) Nicole Karres
Nicole Karres is an M.S. student in the Biology Department at Sonoma State University and is a 2012 winner of the Metter Award. Her major professor is Nick Geist and her thesis research deals with the diet and feeding ecology of the Western pond turtle, Emys marmorata in two urban habitats.
(2) Dustin Owen
Dustin Owen, an undergraduate biology major at Ball State University whose proposal was entitled Physiological impacts of roads on copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), is a 2012 winner of the Metter Award. Dustin’s undergraduate research advisor was Kamal Islam. Dustin is currently an MS student in the Center of Excellence for Field Biology at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.
(1) Brandon Fessler
Brandon Fessler is an M.S. student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Central Washington University in Ellensburg Washington. His major professor is Jason Irwin and his dissertation research deals with seasonal behavior, habitat use, and spatial ecology in Dicamptodon tenebrosus.
(2) Jessica Wood
Jessica Wood, a Ph.D. student in Carl Gerhardt’s laboratory at the University of Missouri—Columbia. Her research will analyze call plasticity and mate recognition in Hyla femoralis. Jessica Wood is the second student from the University of Missouri—Columbia to win a Dean E. Metter Memorial Award.
(1) Matthew Niemiller
Matthew Niemiller is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. His major professor is Ben Fitzpatrick and his dissertation research deals with the maintenance of distinct cave and surface forms in the plethodontid salamander genus, Gyrinophilus.
(2) Michael Reichert
Michael Reichert is a Ph.D. student in Carl Gerhardt’s laboratory at the University of Missouri–Columbia. His research deals with acoustic communication in Hyla versicolor and his proposal requested funds to support his investigations into the role of visual cues in the production of courtship calls.
*Michael Reichert is the first student from the University of Missouri–Columbia to win a Dean E. Metter Memorial Award. Dean Metter was a faculty member of the Department of Zoology and then the Division of Biological Sciences at that institution for approximately 30 years.
(1) Benjamin Jellen
Benjamin’s proposal is entitled “Pre-and Post-Copulatory Determinants of Reproductive Success in Missouri Northern Waternsnakes (Nerodia sipedon).” His research will attempt to show how these snakes communicate using pheromones and how this relates to male and female reproductive success. Benjamin is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at St. Louis University and is working with Robert Aldridge
(2) Jeanine Refsnider
Jeanine’s proposal (“Can Maternal Nest-site Choice Compensate for the Effects of Global Climate Change on Reptiles with Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination? A Common Garden Experiment using a Model Species”) deals with painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) and is designed to determine whether local adaptations to nest site choice are more genetically or environmentally driven. Jeanine is working in Fred Janzen’s laboratory in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University.