Several UC Merced faculty members will play important roles in a new UC systemwide effort to study the ecological effects of climate change across varied ecosystems.
Funded by a $1.9 million President’s Research Catalyst Awards grant from UC President Janet Napolitano and led by UC Santa Cruz ecologist and evolutionary biologist Barry Sinervo, the Institute for the Study of Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts will serve as a hub for the knowledge being gathered and analyzed.
UC Merced researchers including professors Elliott Campbell, Martha Conklin and LeRoy Westerling, with the School of Engineering, and Jessica Blois, with the School of Natural Sciences, will affiliate with the nine-campus multidisciplinary institute. Campbell will serve as a collaborating investigator and on the institute’s board of directors, as well as contributing through his research.
“It is clear that climate change will drastically disturb our ecosystems, but we also have to keep in mind the downstream impacts on California’s food, water and energy systems,” Campbell said.
Because ISEECI amalgamates researchers from across many disciplines, the state and its residents can benefit from a comprehensive set of data. For example, UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute Director Roger Bales is a hydrologist, Campbell is an environmental engineer, Westerling studies wildfire and climate change’s effects on it, and Blois is a paleoecologist who studies ecological and evolutionary responses to past, recent and future environmental change.
The institute will use some of the 39 assets in the UC Natural Reserve System for much of its study. Conklin oversees UC Merced’s two reserves – the Merced vernal pools and grassland reserve adjacent to campus, and the Yosemite Field Station in Yosemite National Park.
“Merced has the newest natural reserve in the system and the only one in the San Joaquin Valley – we are very excited about being part of the study and offer an important and unique research opportunity,” Conklin said.
Although there are many in-depth studies documenting climate impacts, they have mostly been conducted independently, with results that are difficult to compare with other studies, Sinervo wrote in his proposal. What’s been missing, he said, is a coordinated approach to various studies and surveys across broad geographic scales.
Using the natural reserve system, ISEECI scientists can work to discover ecosystem responses to climate change, and researchers will develop models to predict future changes to ecosystems and potential effects on ecosystem services that might threaten Californians’ capacity to adapt to climate change.
Playhouse trains student presenters
UC Merced graduate students are getting free training in public speaking and presentation skills this week from Playhouse Merced, part of a new UC systemwide competition called GradSLAM.
GradSLAM is designed to improve students’ abilities to explain their research or creative work to a general audience with poise and confidence. In the competition, students will have three minutes to present their work in front of nonspecialist judges.
The winner of the UC Merced competition in April will receive $2,000 and the opportunity to compete at the UC systemwide GradSLAM competition May 4 in Oakland. Two runners-up will receive $1,000 each. The competition is open to all current doctoral students in good academic standing.
Playhouse Merced offered two workshops on campus this week for students looking to get a jump on the competition. The workshops, designed to help students understand the dynamics of being an effective presenter, included a social hour with the instructors. Finalists in the competition will receive personalized training from Playhouse Merced in preparation for the final competition.
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