Paleontology grant, Latin American research awards and other January accolades from KU

Being the end of the semester, December was a particularly big month for awards at the University of Kansas. In January, KU announced one of its highest honors — an honorary degree recipient for 2017, alumnus and Marine veteran William McNulty — and a few other accolades.

Here’s a roundup of notable honors and awards KU News announced in January, that we haven’t previously published.

• Latin American field researchers: Through the Tinker Field Research Grants program, four KU graduate students recently completed international research in their respective fields, according to KU’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Mabel Alvarado Gutiérrez, doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology, visited Costa Rica to research species within the group “Neotropical Ichneumonidae.” Katelynn Giraldo, master’s degree student in Latin American and Caribbean studies, visited Colombia to research resources for key decision-makers to provide educational access in Medellín’s communities. George Klaeren, doctoral student in history, traveled to Mexico to research scholarship and academic infrastructure for philosophy in colleges and universities in 18th-century New Spain. Silvia Sanchez Díaz, doctoral student in anthropology, traveled to Guatemala to investigate the history of medicine and public health institutions, and new decision-makers.

• GIS award: Eileen Battles, research project manager in GIS (geographic information system) services at KU-based Kansas Geological Survey, received the fourth annual KGS Outstanding Support Staff Recognition Award. Battles is a member of the team that operates the Kansas Data Access and Support Center, the GIS data clearinghouse for the state of Kansas. Through her work, noted Kansas Geological Survey GIS manager Ken Nelson, Battles has “set foot in just about every county across the state.”

• Paleontology grant for faraway places: KU got a $100,000 grant from the David B. Jones Foundation to help students pursue fieldwork in locations such as Wyoming and Turkey. K. Christopher Beard, distinguished foundation professor in ecology and evolutionary biology and senior curator at the KU Biodiversity Institute, is heading the work.

Sending the KU reporter to Turkey is probably a little steep for the Journal-World travel budget, but plans there sound interesting. According to KU, researchers will be piecing together ancient migration patterns of mammals in the unique Pontide region, “which researchers believe 45 million years ago was an island treasure house of biodiversity, something like today’s Madagascar.”

• I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at