SKOKIE, IL (December 7, 2016) – Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), the world leader in custom oligonucleotide synthesis, announces the winners of its 2016 Sustainability Award contest. This award recognizes innovative research that has the potential to make a global impact in the area of biodiversity. This year’s winning projects highlight the importance of sustaining biodiversity in groundwater, seed banks, and the microbiome of birds.
Elizabeth Walder, IDT’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said “I am very excited that this award will continue to serve as a platform to recognize and support researchers as they work to advance sustainability. Winning projects this year could positively impact sustainability issues for generations to come.”
Earning the top prize of $14,000 in IDT product credit is a team led by Matthew Niemiller, PhD, Associate Ecologist, from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The project, titled, “Is Out of Sight Really Out of Mind? Environmental DNA Detection and Monitoring of Rare Groundwater Fauna”, will assess the distribution and abundance of groundwater organisms which have a major impact on the quality of our usable water. Dr. Niemiller’s study will provide information on how groundwater biodiversity could be changing over time due to factors such as habitat loss, over-exploitation, pollution, and climate change.
Joining Dr Niemiller on the team are molecular ecologists and geneticists Dr Mark Davis (INHS), and Dr Megan L. Porter (University of Hawaii); cave biologists and subterranean biosurvey experts Dr Steven J. Taylor (INHS), Michael E. Slay (The Nature Conservancy), and Dr Kirk S. Zigler (University of the South).
Receiving $10,000 in product credit from IDT is Patrick Brown, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Crop Sciences, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research is titled, “Effective use of gene bank biodiversity for crop improvement using DNA barcodes, next-generation sequencing, and genomic prediction.” Dr Brown’s team will decode genomic DNA from the millions of crop varieties in plant gene banks around the world, using a cost-reduction technology known as multiplexing. The resulting data will be key to developing crops that will withstand future droughts, diseases, and pest outbreaks.
Receiving $6,000 in product credit from IDT is a team from The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, led by Shannon Hackett, PhD, Associate Curator. Dr Hackett’s research explores, “The relationship between immune system genetic variability, blood parasitism, and microbiomes in birds in changing environments.” The Field Museum’s ambitious effort will assess hundreds of bird species from multiple locations on three continents to gain insights into the environmental conditions under which pathogens might switch hosts and the consequences of such switches. Other team members include Dr Dylan Maddox and Dr Kevin Feldheim.
Judges for this year’s award included Dr Maurine Neiman, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Iowa; Dr Dana Hunt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbial Ecology at Duke University Marine Lab; and Dr Mark Behlke, Chief Scientific Officer, IDT. Judging criteria included scientific impact, project feasibility, and the impact IDT products would have on the success of the project. Researchers in Illinois and Iowa or associated with labs in these states were eligible to apply.
IDT first introduced its Sustainability Award in 2015 to honor the achievement of its San Diego manufacturing facility in attaining ISO 14001 certification and to demonstrate the connection between the company’s sustainability initiatives and innovative sustainability research being conducted regionally. Dr Behlke said “The award has generated increased interest this year with more than double the applicants from 2015, and the caliber of applications continues to be outstanding.”
IDT plans to honor the award winners at an event in the spring of 2017 at Chicago’s Field Museum to coincide with the opening of a new exhibit on biodiversity entitled, Specimens: Unlocking the Secrets of Life.