Sixteen University of California graduate students have been awarded 2014-15 Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grants from the UC Natural Reserve System. The students, from six different UC campuses, received up to $3,000 to fund field projects at 22 different NRS reserves.
Virtually all of this year’s successful proposals will study ecology, evolution, or other aspects of the biological sciences. The exception is a geomorphology project examining gravel distribution controls in coastal streams hosting steelhead runs.
Focusing on climate change
More than half of this year’s successful proposals plan to examine climate change impacts on plants and animals. Five grant recipients proposed conducting research at more than one reserve. Many of these intend to compare conditions at southern versus northern California reserves, or higher versus lower elevation sites, to simulate the effects of a warmer, drier California of the future. Their interest in using multiple reserves underscores the importance of having reserves located across the state in a wide variety of habitats and environmental conditions.
One project, to predict the effects of climate change on floral traits and reproductive success in Clarkia wildflowers, will involve research at seven reserves. Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve in Big Sur will host five Mathias projects this year, the most of any reserve.
Early career support
The Mathias Graduate Student Research Grant program gives students experience applying for and managing research grants, and reporting on their research progress—skills valuable for many careers in science.
Receiving a Mathias grant also helps convince other agencies and institutions that a researcher's work is serious and worthy of additional funding. Scores of previous grant winners have cited early career support by a Mathias grant as critical to their subsequent academic and professional success.
The Mathias grant competition is open to UC graduate students who submit a proposal for research to be conducted at one or more NRS reserves. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to apply. Applications are evaluated based on academic merit. Students at an early stage of their careers and in underrepresented fields of study receive preference.
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. Since its inception in 1988, the Mathias grant program has awarded a total of $753,264 to 415 students.