One of the world’s leading authorities on the biology of bats, Professor Thomas H. Kunz, has for the past 40+ years been an inspiring teacher to thousands of undergraduates, an enthusiastic proponent for bats and science in the public arena, and an exceptional mentor to dozens of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty. A William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, the highest academic honor conferred by Boston University, Tom has also been one of our most productive and highly regarded scientists.
In recognition and appreciation of Tom’s mentorship, his current and former graduate students established the Thomas H. Kunz Fund in Biology to serve as a lasting legacy of Tom’s contributions at BU and beyond, and to support future graduate education in ecology at Boston University. With support from Tom’s former students, his family, his colleagues in the Biology department, other Biology alumni, and a growing list of friends and colleagues from around the world, the fund is now closing in on the critical $100,000 mark, the level needed to transition into a permanently endowed fund at Boston University.
2018 Kunz Fund in Biology Award Winner
For summer 2018, our departmental graduate committee selected Rebecca Branconi as the Kunz Fund awardee.
The main objective of Rebecca’s dissertation research is to test the robustness of our understanding of social evolution and the generality of current theory, by investigating the role of ecological and social constraints in two coral reef fish systems: the iconic clown anemonefish Amphiprion percula (a.k.a. Nemo) in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea and the coral-dwelling damselfish Dascyllus aruanus in Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Dr. Branconi defended her dissertation in April 2018, speaking to a large audience of faculty and students from the Biology Department. In reflecting on the impact of the Kunz Award, Branconi says: “The Kunz Award gave me the possibility to conduct three months of field work in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, to complete two experiments that are essential for my research: this work will be the first test of the concepts of ecological and social constraints in a single study and it will generate new insights into social evolution.
Funding opportunities like the Kunz Award are vital for graduate students who need to pursue their research for an extended amount of time in some remote places around the world like PNG. It was a privilege for me to receive this award and it enabled me to accomplish this key part of my dissertation.”
Previous Kunz Fund Award Winners
Stephen’s dissertation research examined the patterns and processes responsible for the cycling of nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus in urban and suburban environments, exploring the ways that the urban landscape and human decision making influence these biogeochemical cycles. His overarching goal is to produce scientific results that will inform policies and practices that will lead to more sustainable cities and resilient socio-ecological communities.
Dr. Decina credits the Kunz Award in helping him reach this milestone: “I was unbelievably grateful for the opportunity that the Thomas H. Kunz Award afforded me. Because of the stipend support, I was able to dedicate 100% of my time this past summer to completing my PhD research studying urban ecosystems right here in Boston. Opportunities like the Kunz Award are crucial for students in the latter part of their graduate programs who are juggling numerous responsibilities and trying to finish strong.”
2015 & 2016
The first Kunz Fund in Biology Award, was presented to PhD candidate Jesse Delia in 2015. Jesse is conducting comparative research on the evolution of parental care and embryo behavior in several species of glassfrogs in the forests of Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.
Jesse’s research has been featured in news outlets such as: Science, LiveScience and IFLScience, as well as the New York Times. Jesse has gone to extraordinary lengths to stretch small grants from various organizations to complete his international fieldwork and wrote the following after receiving the award: “I am honored to be the first recipient of the Thomas H. Kunz Award…funding opportunities like the Kunz Award are critical for opening up opportunities and enabling graduate students to independently pursue new and potentially risky research directions.”
As many of you know, Tom’s research has spanned from New England to the tropics and the Kunz Fund is helping our graduate students to uphold BU’s strong tradition of fieldwork across the globe. We welcome your help in increasing the impact of the Kunz Fund as we work to train the next generation of ecologists. Feel free to share this with family, friends and colleagues who might be interested.
As you may know, Tom is now retired and continuing with an arduous recovery from the serious brain injuries he suffered in a tragic accident at the end of October 2011. Tom has made amazing progress over the past seven years and generally seems to be doing well; if you’re interested in visiting him and his wife Margaret, feel free to get in touch with Mike Sorenson.
Make a Contribution
Please see the BU Alumni page for information on other ways to give.
Please feel free to contact us with questions or simply to let us know that you’ve made a contribution – it would be great to hear from you.