STEPS Institute establishes graduate fellowships honoring M.R.C. Greenwood, Frans Lanting, and Christine Eckstrom

The STEPS Institute for Innovation in Environmental Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has established three new graduate fellowships for interdisciplinary environmental research, funded by an anonymous donor and named in honor of three individuals known for forging links between science and society: M.R.C. Greenwood, Frans Lanting, and Christine Eckstrom.

UC Provost and former UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood has made wide-ranging contributions to scientific research and education. As Chancellor, Greenwood led the effort to establish the STEPS Institute in 2002. Photographer Frans Lanting and his wife and collaborator Christine Eckstrom, a renowned photographer-writer team, have increased public appreciation of the natural world through their compelling photographic essays.

The first students to receive these $20,000 fellowships are Adelia Barber, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology (M.R.C. Greenwood Fellowship); Joanna Nelson, a graduate student in environmental studies (Frans Lanting Fellowship); and Antonia D'Amore, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology (Christine Eckstrom Fellowship).

Barber will be working with Daniel Doak, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, on a field-based plant ecological study. She is interested in using aspects of remotely sensed data and mathematical modeling to study the way plant diversity is organized across California landscapes. As an undergraduate at Brown University, Barber completed an extensive project in game reserves in north-central Tanzania that involved both botanical fieldwork and discussions of land management issues with the local Masai people.

Nelson will be working with Erika Zavaleta, assistant professor of environmental studies. Her proposed research addresses the biological, physical, and social effects of regional climate change in the boreal forest of North America. She will be working with a computer model currently used to investigate the interactions of vegetation, climate, and fire in interior Alaska. Nelson wants to expand the model to include interactions involving the human communities in the region.

D'Amore will be working with Kerstin Wasson, assistant adjunct professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, to study the California red-legged frog populations in the Elkhorn Slough area. She plans to integrate the results of surveys for the frog from a variety of sources to create accurate maps of its historic and current distribution. In addition, her work aims to characterize the types of habitat used by the frog in different stages of its life cycle. These efforts will contribute to an understanding of the factors causing populations of this threatened species to decline.