UC Merced Connect: Ancient pollen helps in modern quest

June 16, 2013 

Using some of the tiniest fossils in the world to help clarify how climate change is modeled has earned Professor Jessica Blois a big honor — publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Blois, one of the newest professors in the School of Natural Sciences, is a paleoecologist who looks at ecological and evolutionary responses to past, recent and future climate changes.

She recently studied fossilized pollen in eastern North American lakes to empirically test whether space can substitute for time in climate-change predictions.

Blois' work is another example of how UC Merced researchers are adding to the ever-growing bank of knowledge about the environment and what we can expect from coming climatic changes.

Her article was written with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the USGS Southwest Climate Science Center and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Canberra, Australia.

It says that substitution can be made, though judiciously. The article gives researchers a better understanding of models' limitations, so predictions can be more accurate.

Using specific "time slices," the researchers first looked at the influence of climate on changes in plant communities across space. Then, at specific locations, they looked for the influence of climate on changes in plant communities across time. Researchers figured out whether climate had the same influence on plant communities across space and through time.

"We looked at how climate causes changes to plant communities in eastern North America from 21,000 years ago to the present," Blois said. "The models not only tell us how the climate affects communities, but also which parts of climate are most important for explaining changes in plant communities."

Having the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she said, is very exciting.

"The National Academy of Sciences is one of the main scientific bodies in the United States," she said. The paper itself will be offered free of charge through an open-access publication so other researchers around the world can use it.

Summer courses open

Summer Session courses at UC Merced aren't only for continuing students. They are available to everyone — college students from other places, working professionals, retirees, even pre-college students.

Summer is a great time to explore UC Merced and all it has to offer academically. And there's still time to register. About 2,000 students are expected to be hitting the books at UC Merced this summer — nearly a 15 percent growth over last summer.

Summer courses include a cross section of all disciplines. Students are able to select from 36 more courses than were offered last summer. Core 001, which every freshman must take, has been never offered in summer before now. Other new summer offerings include Political Science 005, Psychology 015, Public Health 001 and Chemistry 100.

Several classes don't require a prerequisite, such as Chemistry 01: Preparatory Chemistry, Math 005: Preparatory Calculus, Computer Science and Engineering 5: Intro Computer Applications, History 17: Twentieth Century America, History 30: Early Modern Europe and Public Health 1: Introduction to Public Health.

In order to accommodate more students, this is the first year the campus has offered a third session — Session C — and there is still space available. Session C runs July 8 through Aug. 16, and the deadline for visiting students to apply online is June 25. Continuing UC Merced students can still enroll in Session B, which begins June 24.

For more information and to enroll online: http://summersession.ucmerced.edu.

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