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Rising-star ocean scientist Martin Krkosek awarded Sloan Research Fellowship

Martin Krkosek, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, is one of 126 outstanding U.S. and Canadian researchers to receive a 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship. Only two fellowships were awarded this year to researchers at Canadian universities.

Pulling up a purse seine net containing juvenile salmon.

Pulling up a purse seine net containing juvenile salmon.

Awarded annually since 1955, the $50,000 Sloan fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders.

Krkosek is an ecologist whose work on infectious diseases in the oceans addresses problems of sustainability in fisheries, aquaculture, and biodiversity conservation. As a Sloan Research Fellow his lab will study how infectious diseases may be a major emerging factor that can constrain the productivity and conservation of ocean ecosystems and resources — a consequence of humanity transitioning from hunting to farming coastal seas.

“I was surprised and thrilled to have been selected,” said Krkosek. “It’s a great recognition for the work that we do in my lab, and it will enable us to expand our work in marine epidemiology. In particular it will enable us to look, in a much more detailed way, into the transmission dynamics of disease between wild and farmed fish, and use that knowledge to help understand the options for management and policy of aquaculture, fisheries, and biodiversity conservation in coastal marine areas of Canada.”

Experiments to evaluate the effect of parasites on the behaviour and predation risk of juvenile salmon.

Experiments to evaluate the effect of parasites on the behaviour and predation risk of juvenile salmon.

“Martin’s work is critical to the development of informed and rational policy by various governments, industry and conservation organizations,” said Don Jackson, a scientist in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology who nominated Krkosek for the fellowship. “There is a relentlessly increasing demand on natural wild fisheries, as well as the need to produce fish through aquaculture in order to feed humanity, yet we are only beginning to understand some of the linkages between these two sources and that they cannot be managed independently of one another. Given the ability for pathogens to be transmitted great distances by fish and currents, individual localities and countries cannot manage these issues in isolation. The issues are complex and often require a multidisciplinary approach, they are important globally and becoming more so over time, and their impacts range from the academic community to major Canadian economic sectors, and ultimately may influence what is available at our local grocery store.”

“Congratulations to Professor Krkosek, on behalf of the University of Toronto research community and thanks to the Sloan Foundation for honouring one of our rising research stars,” said Professor Peter Lewis, U of T’s associate vice president, research and innovation. “At any time, our global society and the planet itself face a variety of challenges. University researchers like Professor Krkosek play a vital role in helping society to deal with these problems.”

Sloan fellowships are awarded in eight scientific and technical fields — chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. “For more than half a century, the Sloan Foundation has been proud to honour the best young scientific minds and support them during a crucial phase of their careers when early funding and recognition can really make a difference,” said Dr. Paul L. Joskow, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “These researchers are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge in unprecedented ways.”