UCSC leads new multicampus initiatives on climate change and bilingualism

Erika Zavaleta
Erika Zavaleta (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Mark Amengual
Mark Amengual
Gregory O'Malley
Gregory O'Malley

UC Santa Cruz faculty are leading two new collaborative programs funded by grants from UC’s Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives (MRPI) program. Ecologist Erika Zavaleta leads an effort focused on biodiversity conservation, and linguist Mark Amengual leads an initiative to study Spanish-English bilingualism in California.

Awarded every two years through a highly competitive application process, the MRPI program leverages the research capabilities of the UC system to develop real-world solutions to significant problems facing California and the world. To be eligible, applications must draw on multidisclipinary academic expertise from at least three campuses.

Zavaleta, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC, and associate researcher Blair McLaughlin will lead the UC Center for Climate-Adaptive Biodiversity Conservation, a new multicampus collaboration to propel innovation and research on cutting-edge approaches to sustaining California’s biodiversity in the face of climate change. With a $299,000 MRPI grant, the center will bring together UC researchers, in collaboration with state agencies and community partners, to guide conservation planning for foundational species that support the structure and function of California’s terrestrial ecosystems, which are globally recognized for their unique and imperiled biodiversity.

“Rapid development and testing of strategies to support the species that underpin the resilience and stability of whole ecosystems is critical to sustaining both California’s unique biodiversity and the fundamental social goods that it supports,” Zavaleta said.

Amengual, an associate professor of applied linguistics and director of the UCSC Bilingualism Research Lab, will lead a collaborative initiative to support interdisciplinary research on Spanish-English bilingualism in California. To address the linguistic issues of language contact, language shift, and language maintenance in the Spanish-speaking population of California, the initiative will develop a robust and linguistically rich corpus of bilingual Spanish-English speech samples culled from sociolinguistic interviews and naturalistic conversations among speakers of diverse social profiles and regional origins throughout California.

Funded by a $266,800 MRPI grant, the program will have two main outcomes: the creation of an open-source oral corpus of Spanish-English bilingual speech in California, and the inauguration of a conference on bilingualism and speech in California to disseminate results and encourage cross-campus collaborations.

“By involving graduate students, engaging underrepresented undergraduate students in field research experience, and engaging with multiple cities and counties in our state, this project will ultimately establish UC as an international leader in bilingualism research,” Amengual said.

In addition to these UCSC-led initiatives, UCSC faculty are also involved in three other MRPI projects led by other campuses. Two of those projects involve faculty in UCSC’s global and community health program: Alicia Riley, assistant professor of sociology, is part of the ‘Social Networks and Health among Indigenous Californians Research Collaborative’ led by UC Merced, and Megan Moodie, associate professor of anthropology, is engaged in a program on ‘Abolition Medicine and Disability Justice’ led by UC Irvine.

History Professor Gregory O’Malley continues his work on the Intra-American Slave Trade Database through a new MRPI program, ‘Routes of Enslavement in the Americas,’ led by UC Irvine. The database, which was created by O’Malley and Alex Borucki at UC Irvine and launched in 2018, documents more than 27,000 trafficking voyages from one part of the Americas to another from 1550 to 1860. The new $840,000 MRPI grant will expand this collaboration to a network of scholars and students to strengthen the study of this traffic at the UC and to increase the database’s coverage. With Sabrina Smith at UC Merced, the researchers will target three core areas: interregional movements of African and African-descended captives within colonial Mexico (including California); investigation of the Black Pacific by tracking coastal trafficking routes involving ports from California to Chile; and further research on Caribbean migrations (coerced and free) of African-descended people between islands and with the mainland Americas.