$200,000 gift from UCSC Professor Jean Langenheim establishes graduate fellowship in plant ecology and evolution

Jean Langenheim, professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been studying plant ecology and evolution for 60 years. Now she is giving financial support to a new generation of graduate students in her field through an endowed fellowship fund.

The Jean H. Langenheim Graduate Fellowship in Plant Ecology and Evolution, funded by Langenheim's gift of $200,000 to the UCSC Foundation, will be available to graduate students in the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies.

Langenheim, an eminent plant ecologist, said the gift had long been part of her plans for her estate, but she decided to make it now because recent cuts in state funding and increases in student tuition and fees have made support for graduate students a critical issue for the campus.

"I wanted to do it now because this is such a critical time for graduate student funding," Langenheim said.

Because the endowment needs to grow for at least one year to begin generating funds for fellowships, Langenheim has made an additional gift of $8,650 to ensure that the fellowship can be awarded to a student for the 2004-05 academic year. Langenheim's gifts add to a long history of philanthropic contributions from her to the campus, said Sarah Schuster, assistant director of development for physical and biological sciences.

"I simply decided to support the field in which I have been doing research for so long," Langenheim said. "It actually surprised me to look back and realize that it has been 60 years since I took my first courses in plant ecology."

Since joining the UCSC faculty in 1966, Langenheim has overseen the work of 41 graduate students as an adviser or coadviser. She said UC Santa Cruz is a wonderful place for botanical research. The UCSC Arboretum, the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, and the Natural Reserve System all offer excellent resources and opportunities for studying the ecology and evolution of plants. The campus has a strong tradition of research in the plant sciences by faculty and students, who have done extensive research not only in California but throughout the world, especially in the tropics, Langenheim said.

The fellowship is intended to support graduate students with a broad range of interests within the general area of terrestrial plant ecology and evolution. How plants adapt to their environment, how they have coevolved with other organisms, the effects of global warming on plants, and the development of sustainable management practices for both natural and agricultural ecosystems are among the many possible areas of study that would be eligible for support.

Langenheim is renowned for her investigations of plant resins and amber. She wrote the authoritative book on the subject, Plant Resins: Chemistry, Evolution, Ecology, and Ethnobotany, published by Timber Press in 2003. The book was recently awarded the 2004 Klinger Book Award from the Society for Economic Botany.

Langenheim has served as the president of the Association for Tropical Biology, the Ecological Society of America, the International Society of Chemical Ecology, and the Society for Economic Botany. She also represented UC on the board of directors for and was academic vice president of the Organization for Tropical Studies. She has traveled throughout the world in the course of her research, studying tropical trees as well as redwoods and other Pacific Coast plants. Langenheim remains active in research and continues to supervise graduate students at UCSC.