Two UCSC professors elected 2021 AAAS Fellows

Suzanne Alonzo (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
James Zachos (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Two professors at UC Santa Cruz have been awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the association announced this week. They are Suzanne Alonzo, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and James Zachos, distinguished professor of Earth and planetary sciences.

Alonzo was recognized “for distinguished contributions to the field of ecology and evolution, particularly for field and modeling approaches to understanding the evolution of reproductive behavior.”

Alonzo uses a combination of mathematical theory, field research, and lab experiments to understand the evolution and ecology of reproduction and how social interactions among individuals arise and evolve. Her lab mostly studies fish, which are strikingly diverse and exhibit impressive plasticity in their social and reproductive behaviors. Her work provides novel insights into old questions and increases scientists’ ability to explain and predict the diversity of reproductive patterns observed in nature.

Alonzo currently serves as vice president of the American Society of Naturalists and president elect of the International Society of Behavioral Ecology. She is also a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Toulouse School of Economics, and editor of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. She has received continuous funding from the National Science Foundation throughout her career, including the prestigious Early CAREER Award.

Zachos, who holds the Ida Benson Lynn Chair of Ocean Health at UCSC, was recognized for “outstanding contributions in geology, paleontology, and climate science of the Cenozoic and Cretaceous oceans.”

Zachos studies the climates and marine environments of Earth's distant past by analyzing evidence in the layers of sediments deposited on the seafloor. Much of his research has focused on major climate shifts during the past 65 million years, such as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). This work is highly relevant to understanding how human activities are driving modern-day global climate change. In a study published in Science in 2020, Zachos and other climate scientists compiled for the first time a continuous, high-fidelity record of variations in Earth’s climate extending 66 million years into the past.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Zachos is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Geophysical Union, California Academy of Sciences, and Geological Society of America. He received the 2016 Milutin Milankovic Medal from the European Geosciences Union.

Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. This year, 564 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

The new Fellows will be celebrated later this year during an in-person gathering when it is feasible from a public health and safety perspective. The new class will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science in January 2022.