From the U.P. to Down Under

NMU student receives Fulbright award

Eli Bieri, a student at Northern Michigan University, has been awarded a Fulbright Future Scholarship to help his graduate research in Australia. Bieri is shown here holding a Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. (Photo courtesy of Eli Bieri)

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University student Eli Bieri, who was instrumental in getting part of Peter White Drive closed during the spring to reduce blue-spotted salamander fatalities, has received a Fulbright Future Scholarship to support his graduate research in Australia.

Bieri said in an email that the Fulbright award will support him through a two-year master’s degree at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He will work with Dr. Jodi Rowley on a project that involves amphibian diseases, the impact of wildfires on frogs and citizen science — a program that starts in February.

“I’m really excited to join the amphibian conservation team in Sydney and get started with that research,” said Bieri, who noted he was selected by a review committee in the United States and another one in Australia. The application process involved essays, a research proposal and an interview.

His studies already are allowing him to see other parts of the world.

Bieri currently is working in a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program in North Carolina, working in Dr. Kyle Summers’ lab studying the genetics of neotropical poison frogs.

Bieri plans to graduate from NMU in August with a biology/ecology degree.

Although there aren’t too many neotropical poison frogs around Marquette, Bieri has experience with amphibian conservation of a different short.

In 2018, Bieri noticed vehicles were killing the salamanders that were migrating across Peter White Drive at Presque Isle Park. So, he started an effort to have part of the road closed to vehicular traffic.

In cooperation with the Superior Watershed Partnership and the NMU Department of Biology, the city of Marquette put into effect the closure of a portion of Peter white Drive to facilitate the continued safe migration of the blue-spotted salamander.

The southwest bend of Peter White Drive from MooseWood Nature Center to the gate north of the pavilion closed to vehicular traffic daily from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the migration season.

The closures have been successful, with salamander mortality figures on the decrease, according to the SWP, which is located along Peter White Drive.

“I’m happy to know that the Marquette community has embraced our salamander neighbors and committed to protecting them in future springs,” Bieri said. “It takes a special community to show that kind of support for a creature we rarely see.”

Of course, he couldn’t have accomplished all his work on his own.

“I’m really grateful to all of the fabulous teachers, professors, mentors and friends that have helped me reach this point in my academic career,” he said. “This award really demonstrates all of the incredible support I’ve received through the years from the Marquette community and beyond.”

The NMU Biology Department recently posted the announcement of Bieri’s award on Facebook, which resulted in dozens of supportive posts.

“Changing the world one frog at a time,” one post reads.

However, there probably is fun to be had in Australia as well.

“You’re going to love Sydney!” another post reads. “So much surfing and wildlife.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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