July 15, 2010

Scientific society honors SIUC graduate student

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- A student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has won a top prize from a national group of scientists.

Jen Eichelberger, a graduate student in zoology from Versailles, won the Stoye Award for best student oral presentation in Genetics, Development and Morphology at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, July 7-12, in Providence, R.I. She is the daughter of Gladys Eichelberger of Mount Sterling.

The University of Rhode Island, Brown University and the University of Connecticut hosted the event, which pulls together researchers and students from all over the world.

The Stoye Award for Genetics, Development, and Morphology includes presentations and research on population genetics, DNA analysis, descriptive and experimental development, comparative and evolutionary morphology and biomechanics, among others.

Eichelberger’s research focuses on developing genetic identification tools that will allow wildlife managers to more rapidly and inexpensively identify the endangered pallid sturgeon, which fishermen often mistake for its cousin, the shovelnose sturgeon. Fishermen covet the shovelnose for their eggs, which do well on the caviar market.

“I am working on new tools in this area,” she said. “We do have some tools, but the ones I’m working on will be much faster and more cost-effective.”

Edward Heist, associate professor in the Fisheries & Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIUC, said Eichelberger has made important contributions in preserving pallid sturgeon, which are found in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

“Jennifer's contribution to conservation of endangered pallid sturgeon is well known to those working on sturgeon conservation,” said Heist, who is Eichelberger’s faculty adviser. “It's great to have recognition from the broader scientific community as well.”