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Australopithecus sediba (photo by Brett Eloff, courtesy of Wits University)

UCSC researcher contributes to major hominid fossil find in South Africa

Researchers in South Africa have discovered two remarkably well-preserved fossil skeletons of an ancient human ancestor dating to almost 2 million years ago. The discovery is described in two papers published in the April 9 issue of Science by an international team led by Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

The first paper describes the fossils as representing a new species of hominid, called Australopithecus sediba. It appears to be a transitional form between more ape-like early Australopithecus species and early members of the genus Homo, which includes modern humans (Homo sapiens). The second paper describes the geological context of the find, including insights into the nature of the landscape in which the hominids lived.

"This is one of the richest fossil sites in Africa, and we want to understand the environment these early hominids lived in. The geologic analysis is also important for directing future efforts to find other fossils," said Daniel Farber, a researcher and lecturer in Earth sciences at UCSC and a coauthor of the second paper.

Grad student wins award for fisheries research

Alexis Jackson

Alexis Jackson (photo by Jim MacKenzie)

Alexis Jackson, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, received a $500 first prize from Ecology Project International (EPI) to fund her research on grouper populations and fisheries management in the Gulf of California.

The EPI alumni awards program provides incentives for former participants to continue conservation work. Jackson, who went to Costa Rica with EPI in 2002, is now a doctoral candidate working with Giacomo Bernardi, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

2010 Shakespeare Santa Cruz season to explore love

The 2010 Shakespeare Santa Cruz season will feature a slate of three plays that explore the theme of "love" in all of its ramifications-from first blush, to wrenching jealousy, to familial dysfunction of the highest order.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz
The renowned UCSC theater company's 2010 lineup includes Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost and Othello, plus James Goldman's The Lion in Winter.

Artistic Director Marco Barricelli continues to build upon SSC's reputation for producing inventive interpretations of Shakespearean plays, while introducing SSC audiences to more contemporary works by American playwrights.

"It is terribly important to me in building my third season during these economically challenging times that we continue to focus on quality and not take a safe road into theatrical malaise," said Barricelli.

All three plays will be performed in repertory from July 20 through August 29.

For tickets, visit or call (831) 459-2159.

$2.1 million grant will help 'make science real'

A multidisciplinary team of UCSC environmental scientists won a $2.1 million grant to link graduate students and Watsonville-area high school teachers to develop innovative approaches to teaching math and science with hands-on research and projects in environmental sciences.

The five-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, involves professors and grad students in the departments of Environmental Studies, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Education and is known as Santa Cruz-Watsonville Inquiry-Based Learning in Environmental Sciences, or SCWIBLES.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for hands-on learning," said Watsonville High School Principal Murry Schekman. "It will make science real for our students."

Gregory Gilbert

Gregory Gilbert, SCWIBLES director and UCSC professor of environmental studies

Gregory Gilbert, SCWIBLES director and UCSC professor of environmental studies, said the program will help train science graduate students in how to translate and share scientific concepts and processes with a diverse and non- scientific audience, principally high school students and teachers.

It will also provide teachers with research experience and the practical tools that help bring science alive to their students, Gilbert said. "They are educating the next generation of potential scientists, professionals, and leaders in the growing local green economy."

UCSC among top in geosciences

In a survey of the top institutions in geosciences, UC Santa Cruz ranks 18th in the world. The ranking reflects the quality of UCSC's research in geosciences and its influence on the field.

The survey was conducted by the British publication Times Higher Education (THE), using data provided by Thomson Reuters from its Essential Science Indicators database. The analysis looked at scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals during the period from January 1999 through June 2009. The rankings were based on the number of citations per paper, a measure of the impact a paper's findings have on the field.

"The ranking by citations per paper (impact) seeks to reveal 'heavy-hitters' based on per-paper influence, not mere output," explained an article accompanying the rankings, published in THE in November 2009.

In this study, the category of "geosciences" includes atmospheric research and oceanography as well as geology and Earth sciences. At UCSC, this would include research conducted in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Department of Ocean Sciences.

Architect honored for environmental accomplishments

Frank Zwart

Frank Zwart (photo by Jim MacKenzie)

Frank Zwart, UC Santa Cruz campus architect and associate vice chancellor for physical planning and construction, was selected for the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The honor came as Forbes magazine online cited the UCSC campus as one of the most beautiful in the world.

The AIA cited Zwart, who retired April 1, for combining elements of conservation, beautification, land use regulation, and transportation through professional and administrative expertise.

"Frank's expertise in identifying and collaborating with architects who have the sensitivity to realize our campus vision has resulted in one of the most beautiful campuses in the world," said Chancellor George Blumenthal. "That UCSC's rich natural environment has been more important than individual buildings in creating a campus identity is a lasting testament to Frank's talents and efforts."

Zwart graduated from Cowell College in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He earned his master's in architecture from Princeton University, then returned to campus in 1988 after working with architectural firms in Princeton, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Aptos, Philadelphia, and Carmel.

"To have had the opportunity to continue UCSC's long-standing tradition of sensitive collaboration between thoughtful architects and a spectacular environment has been both a privilege and a pleasure," said Zwart.

Grateful Dead Archive garnering the limelight

Grateful Dead archive
The Grateful Dead Archive at UCSC's McHenry Library continued to garner widespread attention with feature articles in Atlantic Magazine, Rolling Stone, and a cover story in the New York Times arts section.

In the March issue, Atlantic senior editor Joshua Green spotlighted music professor Fred Lieberman and the academic and scholarly impact of the archive across the arts, management, and business.

A select exhibit from the archives went on display March 3 at the New York Historical Society. The New York Times weighed in a week later with a story on the archive's historical impact and value.

Dead reckoning: Library hires archivist for Grateful Dead holdings

Nicholas Meriwether

Nicholas Meriwether

UCSC has appointed Nicholas Meriwether as the new archivist for the campus's historic Grateful Dead Archive.

Meriwether comes to Santa Cruz from the University of South Carolina, where he has served as oral historian in the South Caroliniana Library for the past five years. His background experience includes work as an educational, research, and rare-book consultant.

Meriwether holds a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University, plus a master's in library science-with a specialization in archives-from the University of South Carolina.

His research on the Grateful Dead, their cultural significance, and their impact on late 20th century society has resulted in a number of publications.

Meriwether is the editor of All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead Phenomenon (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007), as well as four volumes of Dead Letters: Essays on the Grateful Dead Phenomenon (Dead Letters Press).