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June 19, 2006

Ida Benson Lynn Graduate Fellowships in Ocean Health awarded

By Ann Gibb

Four UCSC graduate students taking an integrative approach to ocean health research have been awarded the 2006 Ida Benson Lynn Graduate Fellowships. Lynn Fellowships, generously funded by an anonymous donor, recognize and support students of high academic merit with an expressed interest in marine-related research and issues. Lynn Fellows Kristen Buck and Carolyn Berger have been awarded $20,000 each, and Ana Aguilar-Islas and Meredith Armstrong received partial awards to supplement additional support provided by other grants.

In addition to being a Lynn Fellow, Ana Aguilar-Islas has held a three-year graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Aguilar-Islas, who earned a B.S. in chemistry at UCSC in 2002, is currently on a research vessel studying the effect of the Columbia River plume mixing out into the coastal waters off Washington and Oregon. She has developed shipboard analytical techniques for measuring dissolved iron and manganese, enabling detailed mapping of the ocean's trace metal chemistry in near-real time.

Aguilar-Islas returned to college after a successful career in advertising design. She earned her second undergraduate degree with honors, has published one paper, and is first author on two papers in press. She will finish her Ph.D. in ocean sciences at the end of fall quarter 2006 and begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Alaska, where she will study the influence of climate change on the chemistry and productivity of the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean.

Meredith Armstrong entered the ocean sciences Ph.D. program in 2001, with an interest in marine ecology and phytoplankton dynamics. Her thesis work is designed to address the ecological role and relevance of toxins produced by marine algae (harmful algal bloom organisms). Much of Armstrong's research focuses on a newly discovered marine toxin, yessotoxin. The algae that produce yessotoxin cause frequent red tides in California and are a serious health threat in Europe, Japan, and New Zealand, yet little is known about the ecology or toxicity of these organisms in the United States. Armstrong is combining traditional taxonomy and ecology with cutting-edge methods such as toxin immunoassays, flow cytometry, and molecular biology. She has two publications from her thesis work to date and has received numerous awards and fellowships in recognition of her work, including the Ocean Sciences Outstanding Student Award for 2004-05.

Kristen Buck, a Lynn Fellow for the last three years, has also received the Ocean Sciences Outstanding Student Award. She conducts novel studies on copper and iron. Copper is a potentially toxic metal and exists at elevated concentrations in San Francisco Bay. Buck has shown that greater than 99 percent of this copper exists in a nontoxic form, and she has documented how copper becomes toxic to phytoplankton through transformation with organic elements. This research is critical to protecting the bay and made the top-ten list of most downloaded articles in the journal Marine Chemistry. Buck will finish her Ph.D. in the fall of 2006 and begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The offer of a Lynn Fellowship was a key factor in Carolyn Berger's decision to enroll at UCSC. Berger is researching the role river-derived particulate material plays as a source of iron and other required trace metals. She has developed a new method to define the biologically available component of particulate trace metals. Berger will complete her M.S. in ocean sciences in fall quarter 2006.

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