Current Recipients of the Graduate Student Fellowship
The Philomathia Graduate Fellowship in the Environmental Sciences provides fellowships for graduate students studying issues related to the environment at UC Berkeley. Students are nominated to receive the award on the basis of their high level of academic distinction and exceptional promise.
2018 - 2019 Recipients
As the frequency and intensity of wildfires increase, it is urgent to elucidate the mechanisms that drive post-fire ecosystem recovery. Soil ecological knowledge has the potential to direct successful recovery, across a range of ecosystem and habitat types. Lindsey’s research focuses on how plant functional diversity drives post-fire recovery of soils in Northern California chaparral shrublands. Shortly after summer fires, herbaceous plants grow prolifically, likely absorbing nitrogen in ash before it runs off to pollute nearby bodies of water. She uses herb-removal experiments to demonstrate the functional
combinations of plants that maximize post-fire nitrogen retention and soil restoration.
Energy and Resources Group
Kripa’s research focuses on climate change adaptation, specifically on creating knowledge that enables climate-resilient planning for the future. Successful adaptation to climate change requires solutions that are supported by robust projections of future climate and its impacts. But despite the advances in climate science, information about future trends is very rarely used in adaptation plans. Kripa’s goal is to critically analyze the reasons behind this limited use of climate science, and develop improved science-based knowledge for decision-makers such as farmers and water managers. Kripa combines the fields of climate science, climate impacts and adaptation, risk perception, decision-making under uncertainty, and climate change communication. She uses a mix of ethnographic qualitative methods to understand decision-makers’ climate information needs, and quantitative climate model evaluations and downscaling to develop usable climate information tools.
Isaac H. Lichter Marck
Isaac studies the diverse flora of the North American deserts with the goal of understanding the mechanisms underlying diversification and the ecological factors maintaining the resilience of rare plant species. He is currently studying the rock daisies (Perityleae; Asteraceae), a diverse group of arid-adapted plants with a high instance of threatened species in the Death Valley region of Eastern California. His work combines molecular phylogenetics with models of geology and paleoclimate to understand how species have been and are being impacted by global change.
Environmental Science, Policy and Management
The global extinction crisis has thrown the importance of fundamental ecological questions into sharp relief. What are the consequences of the addition or removal of species from a community? How do permutations to the length of food chains influence the role of species in communities? Clay’s research addresses these basic questions by taking advantage of a natural experiment in the White Sands dunes of southern New Mexico. Out of the diverse suite of reptiles found in the desert immediately surrounding the dunes, only three lizards have successfully colonized White Sands. Not only have these lizards escaped most of their interspecific competitors, they have also escaped all of their major predators. Clay uses a combination of observational and experimental approaches to understand the ramifications of this dramatically shifted ecological context.
Plants and plant-feeding insects account for half of all known species, and it is widely thought that interactions between them have driven each group’s tremendous diversification. However, much remains unknown about how plant-insect interactions can generate new species. Does speciation in plants lead to co-speciation in plant-feeding insects, and if so, how? Tim studies these questions in the hot deserts of North America using creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) and the specialized community of creosote-feeding insects as a model system. His work combines field surveys across arid lands of the US and Mexico, behavioral experiments, and genetic approaches to characterize the links between plant and insect speciation.
Environmental Science, Policy and Management
Repeated convergent evolution has captured the interest of generations of biologists in part because it implies some degree of determinism in evolution, whether through natural selection toward common adaptive peaks or shared evolutionary constraints. Michael studies the degree to which phenotypic convergence is mirrored by convergence across levels of biological organization (i.e. morphological, cellular, and genetic) and at various phylogenetic scales (across populations, across closely-related species, and across distantly-related clades). His work focuses on the radiation of Lesser Antillean Anolis lizards, which display phenotypic convergence in response to similar xeric-mesic environmental gradients across islands. Michael’s work aims to contribute to our broader understanding of the mechanistic origins of diversity and how organisms adapt to their environment.