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September 16, 2003

Alexandra Basolo Wins Sigma Xi Young Investigator Award

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC -- Alexandra L. Basolo, a leading researcher in behavioral ecology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been selected to receive Sigma Xi's 2003 Young Investigator Award in the Life Sciences.

She will give a lecture on her research November 15 during the Society's annual meeting in Los Angeles. The title of her talk is "Tropical Fish Tales: Investigating Sexually Selected Traits at Multiple Levels."

Established in 1998, the annual Sigma Xi award alternates between the life sciences, including social sciences, and the physical sciences, including engineering and mathematics. It includes a $5,000 honorarium.

Basolo is an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. According to colleagues, her impact in the field of behavioral ecology has stimulated extensive research in a new area. She is best known for her work on the "preexisting bias" hypothesis for the evolution of mating preferences and preferred traits.

Her 1990 article in Science on such biases is reportedly one of the most frequently cited articles in behavioral ecology from the 1990s. Basolo has produced the most thorough documentation to date of this phenomenon in her studies of swordtails and platyfishes.

The hypothesis suggests that female mating preferences, rather than evolving for a specific adaptive function, may evolve as incidental consequences of unrelated adaptive features of the sensory and cognitive systems that lead to biases in how females respond to different male traits. These biases, in turn, impose sexual selection for traits borne by the preferred males.

This work, as well as her work on the evolution of equilibrium sex ratios, has been described in a number of popular books, textbooks and magazine articles and has done much to promote public appreciation for scientific ideas and the role of scientists.

She is also known as an innovative and dynamic teacher. A National Science Foundation Career Award encouraged her to integrate teaching and research. Her other honors include the Outstanding New Investigator Award from the Animal Behavior Society and the Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Naturalists.

A graduate of the University of California, San Diego, Basolo earned her master's degree at San Francisco State University and her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin.


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