VIMS grad honored with prestigious Thatcher Prize

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  • Commencement 2014

    VIMS alumnus Andre Buchheister accepts the Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study from William & Mary President Taylor Reveley during 2014 commencement exercises.
    Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Sorting the Catch

    Andre Buchheister and Jason Romine prepare to sort the trawl-net catch during a ChesMMAP cruise on Chesapeake Bay.
    Photo courtesy of ChesMMAP program.

Dr. Andre Buchheister, a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, was awarded the 2014 Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study during William & Mary’s commencement ceremony on Sunday.

The highest award for a graduate or professional student at William & Mary, the Thatcher Prize was created in 2000 in honor of W&M’s 21st Chancellor, Margaret, The Lady Thatcher, who passed away last spring.

Buchheister was selected by W&M’s commencement committee on the basis of scholarship, character, leadership, and service, and has made outstanding contributions to every facet of VIMS’ three-part mission—research, education, and advisory service.VIMS alumnus Andre Buchheister checks out a trawl net during a ChesMMAP cruise to Chesapeake Bay.

Buchheister says he’s extremely humbled and honored for being selected for the prize, given the many exceptional graduate students that W&M produces. “I believe that this award is a reflection of the fertile environments that VIMS and W&M provides in allowing their students to develop and grow academically with the support of their outstanding faculty,” he says.

Nominated by his academic advisor, VIMS Professor Robert Latour; Chair of the VIMS Fisheries Department John Graves, and Associate Dean of Academic Studies Linda Schaffner, Buchheister has distinguished himself as an exemplary student, successful scientist, dedicated teacher, and an active member of the VIMS and local communities.

Buchheister received his Master’s from the College of William & Mary’s School of Marine Science at VIMS in 2008 before completing his Ph.D. this spring, graduating with an overall GPA of 3.92. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Laboratory.

Buchheister’s dissertation research focused on the community structure and food-web dynamics of the “demersal” fishes that live and feed near the bottom of Chesapeake Bay. During his time at VIMS, he published four peer-reviewed publications as primary author and has an additional four publications as co-author in major fisheries ecology journals. One of his lead-author publications, published in 2013, provides the first quantitative evidence on a bay-wide scale that low-oxygen “dead-zones” are impacting the distribution and abundance of demersal fishes.

“Andre’s work has important implications for the management of fisheries and natural resources that impact the economic viability of the Commonwealth,” says Latour.

In addition to research, Buchheister was active in education at VIMS, serving as a teaching assistant in several courses. He was awarded a Marine Science Teaching Fellowship in which he developed and taught a one-credit course for undergraduates in W&M’s Marine Science minor.

“Andre has a true passion for teaching and made the most of the W&M experience by seeking opportunities in the classroom that allowed him to grow as an educator,” says Latour.

In regards to Buchheister's receipt of the Thatcher Prize, VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says, "Andre embodies VIMS’ interdisciplinary focus and has shown remarkable leadership and exceptional contributions to our mission. He continues a tradition of outstanding performance by graduate students at VIMS."

The nominators for Buchheister’s award collectively say that he is highly deserving of the Thatcher prize on the basis of his strong academic performance, recognized achievements as a young investigator and marine science educator, and for the service he has given to the college and local communities.

During Sunday’s commencement exercises, W&M President Taylor Reveley said that Andre has demonstrated a strong ability to combine his understanding of fish biology, solid ecological perspectives, and a highly quantitative approach to address and communicate key questions in the field of ecosystem-based fisheries management. “Andre brings the very best of W&M to the wider community,” says Reveley.

Four other VIMS graduate students have been honored with the Thatcher Prize, including inaugural winner Juliana Harding in 2000, Elizabeth Hinchey in 2003, Kristin France in 2007, and Samuel Lake in 2013.

“The conferral of this award to two VIMS students in the past two years is a testament to the caliber of the Institute and its training of students in both academic studies and professional service,” says Buchheister. “I’m particularly thankful to my advisor, Dr. Robert Latour, for his guidance and mentorship, and also to my wife, Sandi, for her loving support throughout the pursuit of my doctorate.”

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