FAMU Entomology Doctoral Candidate Awarded Best Oral Presentation by Florida Association of Aquatic Biologists

October 22, 2021
Alexander Orfinger
FAMU Entomology Doctoral Candidate Awarded Best Oral Presentation by Florida Association of Aquatic Biologists

This is the third consecutive year Alexander Orfinger of Ormond Beach has won the award.

Entomology doctoral candidate Alexander (Alex) Orfinger, of Ormond Beach, Fla., won the award for Best Oral Presentation by a Graduate Student, at the annual meeting of the Florida Association of Aquatic Biologists (FAB) held recently in Cedar Key, Florida.

He has participated in the conference the last three years and won this award each time. The first year he presented his Ph.D. prospectus, the second and third year he presented his preliminary results.

Orfinger, who is also a graduate research associate, plans to graduate in spring or summer of 2023 with a doctoral degree in entomology from Florida A&M University (FAMU) and the University of Florida (UF) as part of the FAMU/UF Cooperative Entomology Ph.D. program.

“We are very proud of the good work he is doing and congratulate him on receiving this award,” said Robert W. Taylor, dean and director of Land-Grant Programs, College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS).

“I sincerely appreciate the congratulations; however, winning this award is a team effort,” said Orfinger. “Science is a collaborative venture, and I am fortunate enough to have two excellent advisors, an actively involved committee, many wonderful collaborates, and my fellow FAB members help me produce the best possible science. Between this support network and working in a field that I genuinely love, the science is just as much fun as it is work – which is a plenty!”

Research and Assistant Professor Andrew K. Rasmussen, Ph.D., of the CAFS Center for Water Resources (CWR), and Entomology Professor Raymond Hix, Ph.D., of the CAFS Center for Biological Control (CBC), are Orfinger’s co-major advisers.

“Alex’s dissertation research focuses on a particular genus of Trichoptera (caddisflies), which are the most diverse order of aquatic insects. These insects play important roles in the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and are useful as biological indicators in assessments of environmental health,” said Rasmussen. “The genus he is working on has about 30 species across North America. Currently, the species are identifiable based on only the adults, primarily the male sex.

“Alex is using DNA barcoding to associate females and larvae with DNA sequences obtained from adult males of known species identity. His research helps provide identification tools that allow species level identification, and he has made considerable progress on his dissertation, including describing and naming two species of caddisflies new to science.”

Orfinger is active in the FAB and serves on the Executive Committee as the student representative. The organization encourages student participation and waives meeting registration fees for student who present their research. His recent presentation is a warm-up for his presentation later this year at a national conference in Denver, Colorado.