Mathias Award Winners for 2011-2012

Mathias Award Winners for 2011-2012 1
Mathias Grant awards support graduate student research conducted at NRS reserves. Here, 2009 Mathias award winner Michelle Afkhami examines her study plot at Quail Ridge Reserve. Image credit: Lobsang Wangdu

Fourteen grad­u­ate stu­dents from seven 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 15 dif­fer­ent NRS reserves across the state.

Math­ias grants are awarded to UC grad­u­ate stu­dents based on the aca­d­e­mic mer­its of their pro­pos­als and use of one or more NRS reserves to con­duct their research. Pref­er­ence is given to stu­dents at an early stage of their careers, as well as under­rep­re­sented fields of study.

The majority of awards support projects in the biological sci­ences. This is consistent with previous award cycles; to date, roughly 85 per­cent of Math­ias grant projects have been biology-based. Life science studies funded this year include the physiological adaptations to climate change in chipmunks; how the spread of conifers are changing conditions in Sierra Nevada meadows; using elephant seals as sentinels of toxic chemical pollution in the ocean; and new methods for approaching grassland restoration in an era of climate change.

Mathias Award Winners for 2011-2012 2
Northern elephant seals are among the subjects to be studied with funding from this year’s Mathias Grant competition. Image credit: Kathleen M. Wong

Funded proposals from other disciplines include reconstructing Native American plant use on Santa Cruz Island during prehistoric times, and dating the development of the Hilton Creek earthquake fault in eastern California.

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 average amount received by applicants was $2,714. Since its inception in 1988, the grant pro­gram has awarded a total of $639,491 to 368 stu­dents.

Math­ias grant winners are invited to present their find­ings at a sym­po­sium held every other spring. Those who received grants in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 cycles have been invited to the next Math­ias Sym­po­sium, which will be held at Bodega Marine Reserve from March 2 to 4, 2012.

The grant pro­gram is named for UCLA botanist Mil­dred E. Math­ias. Known as the founding mother of the NRS, Math­ias chaired the NRS University-wide com­mit­tee for an unsur­passed 21 years.