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NDSU Graduate Researcher Awarded NSF Fellowship

Dereck Stonefish, a first-year graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Dakota State University, Fargo, has...

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Dereck Stonefish, a first-year graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Dakota State University, Fargo, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. In awarding the fellowship, the National Science Foundation (NSF) noted that Stonefish’s selection “was based on your outstanding abilities and accomplishments, as well as your potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.”

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to Stonefish, which is awarded over a three-year period from 2011 to 2014, carries a total award of $151,500 for research related expenses.

Stonefish, who is pursuing a doctorate degree in zoology, is conducting research on the migratory ecology of red-winged blackbirds and yellow-headed blackbirds that are summer residents in North Dakota. He is using geo-locators to track the movements of these birds from North Dakota to their wintering grounds and then back to North Dakota. “His project not only will provide major insights into the migratory ecology of these species, but the information will also be used to assess how impacts of global climate change may affect migration of these birds,” said Dr. Erin Gillam, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Stonefish’s advisor at NDSU. Stonefish conducts his field research in the prairie pothole region of North Dakota.

Stonefish previously received a Graduate Student Research Assistantship Native American pilot project award in 2010 from the North Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ND EPSCoR). He is a graduate of Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, N.D. Stonefish is one of only four tribal college graduates in the U.S. to receive a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship since 2006. The National Science Foundations’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program assists eligible institutions to prepare students in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Stonefish previously participated in the Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) program sponsored by ND EPSCoR.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program is among the most competitive programs in the country, notes Gillam, whose research on the behavioral ecology of animals has been published in Proceedings of Royal Society B, New Scientist, Journal of Animal Behavior, Journal of Mammology, and the New York Times.

Stonefish says he is happy, humbled and very grateful to be given such an opportunity afforded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in the U.S. and abroad.

Stonefish is also the fourth graduate student at NDSU to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Anoklase Ayitou, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, received a fellowship in 2010, advised by Professor Sivaguru Jayaraman, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award recipient, as well as a recipient of the 2010 Swiss Chemical Society’s Grammaticakis-Neumann Prize.

Darya Zabelina, who received her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from NDSU in psychology, received her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2009, advised by Dr. Michael D. Robinson. Tara Rheault also received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (1997-2000) and conducted research as a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry with Dr. Mukund Sibi, University Distinguished Professor, director of the Center for Protease Research at NDSU and recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Arthur S. Cope Scholar Award.