The patterns of fog moisture, the impacts of native bee declines, and how kelp rafts help marine organisms disperse are among the myriad topics awarded funding this year by the Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grants. Sixteen graduate students attending eight different University of California campuses will receive up to $3,000 each to support their field research. The projects will be conducted at 16 Natural Reserve System sites located across the state.
To receive a Mathias Grant award, a UC graduate student must submit a proposal for original research to be conducted at one of the 38 NRS reserves. The applications are evaluated based on academic merit; preference is given to students at an early stage of their careers, and those in underrepresented fields of study.
As in previous years, most of the winning research proposals involve the biological sciences. The life science projects this year include the risk of Lyme disease and the ecology of tick-borne diseases in southern California; and how fungi stabilize carbon derived from conifer debris. Funded projects in other disciplines include investigating whether coastal lagoons are an important source of mercury in nearshore habitats, and studying the origins of the distinctive mima mounds at Jepson Prairie Reserve.
The nearly $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. Since its inception in 1988, the grant program has awarded a total of $677,266 to 384 students.
Mathias grant winners are invited to present their findings at a symposium held every other year. Those who received grants in 2012 -2013 cycle will be invited to the next Mathias Symposium, which will be held in spring of 2014.
The grant program is named for Mildred E. Mathias, a former professor of botany at UC Los Angeles who served as chair of the university-wide NRS advisory committee for over 21 years.