2016 IDT Sustainability Award Winners

Meet Dr Matthew Niemiller, Associate Ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He and his team earned top honors in IDT’s 2016 Sustainability Award contest and will receive $14,000 in IDT product credit.

His project, titled, “Is Out of Sight Really Out of Mind? Environmental DNA Detection and Monitoring of Rare Groundwater Fauna,” explores the amount and location of groundwater species, particularly those that are small and that live in habitats and ecosystems extremely difficult to survey and study.

Joining Dr Niemiller on the team are molecular ecologists and geneticists Dr Mark Davis (INHS), and Dr Megan L. Porter (University of Hawaii); cave biologists and subterranean biosurvey experts Dr Steven J. Taylor (INHS), Michael E. Slay (The Nature Conservancy), and Dr Kirk S. Zigler (University of the South).

Receiving $10,000 in product credit from IDT is Patrick Brown, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Crop Sciences, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research is titled, “Effective use of gene bank biodiversity for crop improvement using DNA barcodes, next-generation sequencing, and genomic prediction.”

Dr Brown’s team will decode genomic DNA from the millions of crop varieties in plant gene banks around the world, using a cost-reduction technology known as multiplexing. The resulting data will be key to developing crops that will withstand future droughts, diseases, and pest outbreaks.

Receiving $6,000 in product credit from IDT is a team from The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, led by Shannon Hackett, PhD, Associate Curator. Dr Hackett’s research explores, “The relationship between immune system genetic variability, blood parasitism, and microbiomes in birds in changing environments.”

The Field Museum’s ambitious effort will assess hundreds of bird species from multiple locations on three continents to gain insights into the environmental conditions under which pathogens might switch hosts and the consequences of such switches. Other team members include Dr Dylan Maddox and Dr Kevin Feldheim.

© The Field Museum, Photographer John Weinstein

About the Award

IDT first introduced its Sustainability Award in 2015 to honor the achievement of its San Diego manufacturing facility in attaining ISO 14001 certification and to demonstrate the connection between our sustainability initiatives and innovative sustainability research being conducted regionally.


  • Dr Maurine Neiman, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Iowa
  • Dr Dana Hunt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbial Ecology at Duke University Marine Lab
  • Dr Mark Behlke, Chief Scientific Officer, IDT.

Judging criteria:

  • Scientific impact
  • Project feasibility
  • Impact IDT products would have on the success of the project.


Researchers in Illinois and Iowa or associated with labs in these states were eligible to apply.

We plan to honor the 2016 award winners at a special event in the spring of 2017 at Chicago’s Field Museum to coincide with the opening of a new exhibit on biodiversity entitled, Specimens: Unlocking the Secrets of Life.