One of the world’s leading authorities on the biology of bats, Professor Thomas H. Kunz, was for over forty years 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 was one of our most productive and highly regarded scientists. Tom passed away on April 13th, 2020.
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 long list of friends and colleagues from around the world, the fund crossed the $100,000 level in 2019. The Thomas H. Kunz Fund is now a permanently endowed fund at Boston University.
As many of you know, Tom’s research spanned from New England to the tropics. The Kunz Fund is helping our graduate students continue in 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.
2021 Thomas H. Kunz Fund in Biology Award Winner - Brandon Güell
Brandon’s general research interests are studying adaptive phenotypic plasticity, behavioral ecology, and predator-prey interactions of Neotropical frogs. His thesis work focuses on examining the behavioral ecology of gliding treefrogs, Agalychnis spurrelli, on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula and comparing their behaviors and ecology with closely related species. Brandon is currently determining the consequences of reproductive strategies, such as explosive vs. prolonged breeding, on adult reproductive behaviors and embryo-predator interactions.
This summer, Brandon is specifically testing whether egg-clutch structure affects the escape hatching behavior of embryos in two closely related treefrog species in response to predator attacks by conducting egg-transplant experiments. He is transplanting eggs of one species into the clutch of another and exposing them to snake predators to assess their escape rates within different egg clutch types.He’s also continuing to monitor the explosive breeding population of gliding treefrogs on the Osa Peninsula, with the goals of describing their reproductive phenology and determining their environmental triggers. Brandon’s research will give us a better understanding of how sexual selection and reproductive strategies affect adult and embryo behaviors of tropical, terrestrial-breeding frogs.
Previous Kunz Fund Award Winners
2020 – Robin Francis
Robin Francis of the Buston Lab is this year’s recipient of the Thomas H. Kunz Award. Robin has general interests in marine metapopulation ecology and conservation biology, and specific interests in plasticity of larval dispersal and its effects on population connectivity of reef fishes. The aim of her current research is to conduct an experimental investigation of plasticity of larval dispersal in response to parental environment in a marine fish. She will tackle this objective using a captive population of clownfish in a lab experiment as well as using a wild population in Papua New Guinea in a field experiment. Her goal is for results from these studies to deepen the understanding of the causes of variation in patterns of larval dispersal, which has important implications for conservation and fisheries management.
2019 – Javier Méndez Narváez
For 2019, Javier Méndez Narváez was awarded the Thomas H. Kunz Award. With these funds, Javier will be able to build on his previous eco-physiological experiments in Gamboa ( 2016-2018, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute). His research is focused on determining if nitrogen excretion plasticity and its biochemical regulation occurs, as a response to dehydration risk during early development, in neotropical frog lineages that evolved terrestrial egg-laying.
2018 – Rebecca Branconi
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.
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.”
2017 – Stephen Decina
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 – Jesse Delia
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.”
Make a Contribution
To contribute to the Thomas H. Kunz Fund in Biology, you can send a check made out to “Boston University” to our Biology Department address or you can click here to make an online 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.