Fifteen graduate students from eight different University of California campuses have been awarded Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grants. Each will receive up to $3,000 to support their field studies. The research projects will be conducted at a dozen different NRS reserves across the state.
Mathias grants are awarded to UC graduate students based on the academic merits of their proposals and the need to rely on specific NRS sites to conduct the research. Preference is given to students at an early stage of their careers, as well as underrepresented fields of study. Eight of the 2010 awardees are in the first or second year of their graduate studies, while three have received Mathias grants in the past.
All proposals funded this year involve the life sciences. They range from the use of acoustic sensors at rookeries to estimate endangered seabird numbers, to an investigation of how water turbulence affects zooplankton swimming and capture by anemones, to an examination of rainfall's effects on species stability in California grasslands. To date, roughly 85 percent of Mathias grant projects have been biology-based.
This year marks the first time that Mathias award winners will conduct research at the Jenny Pygmy Forest Reserve and the White Mountain Research Station. The Jenny Pygmy Forest, administered by UC Berkeley, was one of the first sites to join the NRS in 1968. It will host an investigation of how biological nitrogen fixation varies with soil age and nitrogen content. The White Mountain Research Station, which is expected to join the NRS in 2011, will be the site of work to understand how the sagebrush Artemisia arbuscula influences upward shifts in elevation by other plants. This was the first year that projects based at White Mountain became eligible for Mathias grants.
The $38,000 awarded this year comes from the Kenneth S. Norris Endowment Fund for the California Environment, provided to the NRS by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The grant program has awarded a total of $601,491 to 373 students since 1988.
Mathias grant winners are invited to present their findings at a symposium held at Bodega Marine Reserve every other spring. The next Mathias Symposium is scheduled for 2012.
The grant program is named for UCLA botanist Mildred E. Mathias. Mathias was an early champion of the NRS, and chaired the NRS University-wide committee for an unsurpassed 21 years.