Christian Rabeling (Ph.D. 2010), an alumnus of the graduate program in Ecology, Evolution and Human Behavior at The University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded a Junior Fellowship from the Harvard Society of Fellows beginning in July 2011.
Rabeling, who was awarded the Michael H. Granof Outstanding Graduate Student Award by the Graduate School in 2009, is best known for his 2008 discovery of the blind, subterranean, predatory ant, Martialis heureka, in the Amazon rainforest. Martialis is a descendant of one of the first ant lineages to evolve more than 120 million years ago, and the study of its evolutionary biology provided novel insights into the early evolution of these social insects.
The Harvard Society Junior Fellowship welcomes 10 new fellows each year and is intended to encourage scholars in the early stages of their careers to explore their studies without formal constraints. The fellows are chosen because of the high caliber of their intellectual achievement and their proven ability, originality and resourcefulness.
“This fellowship allows you to have the freedom to explore many different topics,” says Rabeling. “It is meant to stimulate your curiosity without tying you down.”
Rabeling was initially drawn to Harvard because the Museum of Comparative Zoology houses the largest ant collection in terms of both species diversity and number of specimens. He has been visiting the museum since 2005. He intends to continue his studies on ants and is hoping to integrate traditional approaches to evolutionary biology, such as field and natural history studies, with modern molecular genetic techniques to explore the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity.