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.
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.