The first Rafe Sagarin Fund awards were announced at the 2016 WSN meeting. Congratulations to our first two winners! Check back at this site for updates on their projects.

Andrea Haberkern, CSU Northridge: Spider Form and Function: Foraging Guild, Morphology and Natural History
Amy Collins, UC Davis Determining Drivers of Decline in Tanzanian Mangrove Forests

Andrea Haberkern
CSU Northridge

Early on, I discovered my insatiable curiosity for insects, spiders, and the world of entomology. My passion for entomology only grew as an adult, but it took time for it to mature into a career. While I spent my twenties working as a bartender, I could feel the absence and pull of the natural world and sought an outlet to satisfy it. That outlet was an entomology-focused blog ( My blog keeps me in touch with the naturalist inside me, and is a constant reminder why I chose to become a biologist, otherwise the daily stresses of graduate school would, at times, feel insurmountable. The ability to touch so many people at once and excite them about science drives me to be a better scientist. Social media is a powerful tool that we can use to promote conservation in such a novel way, and now more than ever the general public is excited to be an active participant.

I am currently a Master’s candidate at CSUN, working with Dr. David Gray. My research is on the ecomorphology of spiders. I am using an ecomorphology approach to examine the morphological patterns that exist within functional groups of diverse spider species. I am studying the ecomorphology of spiders to understand a central evolutionary question—how this diverse group of organisms evolved to succeed in a variety of environments.



(Possibly a new species of Huntsman?)

This observational approach can lead to novel insights helping to reveal which forces contribute to the tremendous evolutionary success of spiders. In addition, the ecomorphological patterns I discover among diverse spider species can be applied to other organisms, helping to elucidate the role morphology plays in the interplay between ecology and evolution.







Amy Collins
University of California, Davis

I a second year PhD student at the University of California, Davis. My research focuses on applied conservation, and quantifying anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity decline. Specifically, I am interested in using cutting edge remote sensing methods to monitor past and current deforestation rates on the island of Pemba, Tanzania. I am originally from the UK, where previous work at the Zoological Society of London has included reconstructing baseline populations for hunted mammals in North America, and collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund to assess the characteristics of successful species recovery programs.

Pemba has experienced a 95% forest decline in the past century, a large proportion of which include mangrove forests (CARE, 2012). Sea level rise and human overuse are known causes of mangrove loss, yet the extent to which these threats impact all eight mangrove species on the island is unknown. I propose to establish the rate of mangrove deforestation and afforestation within the last 20 years, and attribute this to the direct and indirect anthropogenic pressures using advanced methods in remote sensing.