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June 19, 2006

STEPS Institute announces 2006 fellowship awards

By Tim Stephens

The STEPS Institute for Innovation in Environmental Research has selected four UCSC graduate students to receive fellowships and awards in support of their graduate research. Each of the recipients has a strong background in research and training that crosses traditional research disciplines.

The $20,000 STEPS research fellowships were established by an anonymous donor who has generously provided fellowship and grant support for graduate and undergraduate students undertaking research on the major STEPS research initiatives. These fellowships were named in honor of three individuals known for forging links between science and society: M.R.C. Greenwood, Frans Lanting, and Christine Eckstrom.

The $10,000 M.R.C. Greenwood Biodiversity Research Award was established through donations by Diane and Don Cooley to foster graduate environmental research that has the potential for immediate application to major environmental issues.

The Christine Eckstrom Fellowship was awarded to Elizabeth Bastiaans, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology. Bastiaans has experience using ecological and molecular techniques to study wild animal populations and is interested in how ongoing rapid evolution may affect the ecological interactions of species.

The Frans Lanting Fellowship was awarded to Daniella Schweizer, a graduate student in environmental studies, who has worked as a field biologist for coral reef restoration projects in Venezuela, as a researcher for Conservation International's Andes Program, and as a fellow in the United Nations biodiversity program. She plans to focus her doctoral research on the biological and social processes affecting forest recovery programs.

Nina Nowshiravani, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, received the M.R.C. Greenwood Fellowship. Nowshiravani plans to use her background in evolutionary biology to evaluate how environmental change is altering the genetic structure of species. She is currently conducting research on the genetic structure of bird species in Sweden.

Amy Morris, a graduate student in community studies and environmental studies, received the M.R.C. Greenwood Biodiversity Research Award. Morris is evaluating the process by which conservation easements are created and recorded. Easements are becoming an increasingly important part of public and private conservation measures, but Morris's research is one of the few assessments of how easements are distributed across regions and how well easements are functioning in achieving conservation goals. She is the recipient of a previous STEPS grant that helped initiate her innovative research.

Established in 2002, the STEPS Institute aims to foster interdisciplinary research that will help our society cope with the rapid changes occurring in all major ecosystems. Much of the work concentrates on ecosystems along California's Central Coast. Over the past four years, the institute has been able to assist in the research of more than 70 faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates at UCSC.

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