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Janneke Fruin-Helb Scholarship for student Tim Rietbergen

Tim Rietbergen, master student Evolutionary Biology at Leiden University, won the award for the best Leiden University Fund (LUF) grant application of 2018. The jury praised his proposal ‘On the origin of Bats’ to be the most creative and of exceptionally high quality. Rietbergen will spend the prize amount of 2250 euro on continuing his research with fossil bats.

Rietbergen’s research proposal described a recently discovered fossil, which is one of the oldest complete bat specimens in the world. Rietbergen discovered the mammalian fossil online. The fossil was offered at an online public auction. Rietbergen was convinced of the importance of this fossil because of the overall small size of the bat, whilst being of a late ontogenetic stage. Rietbergen decided to contact the world-leading specialist on bat evolution Dr. Nancy B. Simmons from the American Museum of Natural (AMN), to make her museum aware of this fossil and to tell her his hypotheses. The AMN decided to buy the fossil for their collection and invited Rietbergen to New York to describe this new fossil with them.

The jury was impressed by Rietbergen’s personal involvement in recognising a different species from pictures online and by getting the American Museum of Natural to acquire the new fossil. Rietbergen’s research has a great impact on the knowledge of the early history of bats, which until now is mostly unknown.

The Fruin-Helb scholarship allows Tim to continue his research on the evolution of bats as a PhD student at the Richard Gilder Graduate School in New York. He will also invest the money of the award to cover expenses of more fieldwork and get more hands-on experience.

The Janneke Fruin-Helb Scholarschip is awarded to a student who has applied for a scholarship at the Leiden University Fund to conduct research abroad, based on the quality and creativity of their research. 

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