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STEPS Institute awards student fellowships and grants

By Tim Stephens

Five graduate students at UCSC were selected last month to receive fellowships from the STEPS Institute for Innovation in Environmental Research. Three students received $20,000 fellowships for interdisciplinary environmental research, and two students received $9,000 fellowships for biodiversity conservation research.

In addition to the graduate fellowships announced last month, the institute awarded smaller research grants to 20 graduate students and six undergraduates in January.

The STEPS Institute supports environmental research and policy through initiatives that aim to forge new collaborations among researchers at UCSC, policy makers, and environmental managers. The institute organizes workshops, provides fellowships and grants, and helps to establish new environmental research facilities on the UCSC campus.

The two fellowships in biodiversity conservation were awarded to Carolyn Kurle, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology who is studying the effects of introduced predators on intertidal communities in the Aleutian Islands; and Sara Bothwell, a graduate student in environmental studies who is investigating the effects of landscape diversity on populations of parasitic wasps that provide biological control of agricultural pests.

Formally known as the M.R.C. Greenwood Fellowship Award in Biodiversity Conservation, these $9,000 fellowships are supported by a generous gift from Diane and Donald Cooley, longtime supporters of UCSC. The fellowship award is administered by the STEPS Institute in collaboration with the UCSC Arboretum.

The other three fellowships were awarded to incoming graduate students Andrea Jani, Jae Pasari, and Autumn Lynn Harrison. These $20,000 STEPS fellowships are funded by an anonymous donor and named in honor of three individuals with links to the campus and an interest in science and society. Jani was awarded the Christine Eckstrom Fellowship, Pasari received the Frans Lanting Fellowship, and Autumn Lynn Harrison was awarded the M.R.C. Greenwood Fellowship.

Jani will be working with Ingrid Parker, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Gregory Gilbert, associate professor of environmental studies, to study host-pathogen interactions and the relationships between disease dynamics, population ecology, and community ecology. Pasari will be working with Erika Zavaleta, assistant professor of environmental studies, to explore the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in Central Coast ecosystems. Harrison will study marine biology with Daniel Costa, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Additional information about STEPS grants and fellowships and the recipients of the 2005 awards can be found online at www.steps.ucsc.edu.

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