To a scientist, the natural world is full of mysteries. How does the winter ant thrive in cold weather when most insects go underground or perish? Are urban birds stressed out by the glow of street lamps, the roar of traffic, and the constant presence of people? What do some of the world’s largest pinnipeds, elephant seals, chase down for dinner in the deep sea?
All of these questions and more will be tackled by recipients of the 2013-14 Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grants. Each student will receive up to $3,000 in field research funding from the UC Natural Reserve System. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Mathias Grant program.
Grants are awarded to UC graduate students who submit a proposal for research to be conducted at one or more NRS reserves. Applications are evaluated based on academic merit. Students at an early stage of their careers and in underrepresented fields of study receive preference. The program gives students experience in applying for and managing research grants, and in reporting on their research progress—skills required for many careers in science.
This year, 15 graduate students attending eight different University of California campuses received awards. Their projects will be conducted at 20 different NRS reserves. Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, which joined the NRS in 2011, received its first use application from a Mathias Grant winner, while Motte Rimrock Reserve received three application requests, the most for any single reserve. Only one study, on the evolution of southern California estuaries, focuses on geology; the remaining 13 projects involve the biological sciences.
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 Mathias Grant program has awarded a total of $715,264 to 399 students.
Mathias Grant winners are invited to present their findings at a symposium held every other year. The next Mathias Symposium will be held this February at Bodega Marine Reserve and Laboratory, and will feature students given awards in the 2011–12 and 2012–13 grant cycles.
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.