Grad student fellows and undergrad assistants

Graduate Student Fellows

Joel Abraham

Joel K. Abraham
Graduate Student, UC Berkeley Department of Integrative Biology; Bachelors Degree in biology from Howard University
Adams Middle School

"I am a plant ecologist, and focus on the mechanisms underlying the invasion of California coastal grassland by exotic perennial plants. For most of my dissertation work, I have been studying the links between phenology (the timing of life history events) and seedling success in several invasive plants. I am also exploring the links between fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) invasion and water use efficiency variability. In the future, I would like to shift my focus to plant/herbivore interactions and their effect on community structure and ecosystem function. I am happy to be a part of the GK-12 program this year, and I am grateful for this opportunity to both teach and learn."

Danica Harbaugh

Danica T. Harbaugh
Graduate Student, UC Berkeley Department of Integrative Biology; Bachelors Degree from UC Berkeley
Pittsburg High School

"As a botanist and ethnobotanist, my work in research and education revolves around a central theme: plants are cool! For my own dissertation research, I study the group of plants called sandalwoods (Santalum), which are commonly known for their scented oil used in incense and perfume. As well as studying the evolutionary history of these plants, I also study how different people, such as Australian aborigines, use sandalwoods for their survival, as food and medicine. The GK-12 program provides a unique opportunity to teach students that may not otherwise be exposed to the great botanical diversity of California. It is important to inspire young students to appreciate the tremendous diversity of plants on earth, and their importance in our own lives, in order ensure that our environment is conserved for future generations."

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill
Graduate student, UC Berkeley, Department of Integrative Biology; Bachelors degree from University of Oregon, Masters degree from University of Texas at Austin
Richmond High School

"My research focuses on a group of tropical butterflies that are unpalatable, and an important example of Müllerian mimicry. This type of mimicry involves two or more nasty tasting species that have evolved to resemble one another for increased protection against predators. Although my research is on a group of diverse tropical animals, many of the same tools and skills, such as observation, measurement and note taking, are generallly used to study biodiversity. I am excited to teach these skills and pass on my enthusiasm for biological diversity so that the students may better understand the rich diversity of life around us."

Brian Kraatz

Brian Kraatz
Graduate Student, UC Berkeley, Department of Integrative Biology; Bachelors degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, Masters degree from University of Wyoming
Berkeley High School

“I am a vertebrate paleontologist. I study really old, really dead things. My focus is mammals, and broadly I’m interested in what types of things drive evolution. More specifically I study pikas, which are most closely related to rabbits but smaller and cuter if you can believe it. My research involves the earliest members of this group and I’m interested in how, why,and when they split from their “not-as-cute” ancestors. Most of the fossils I work on are from Asia, which is where all the action really happened in this story.
“I’ve worked with middle and high school students for three years. It’s a challenge I greatly enjoy. I’ve had the chance to work with rural Wyoming students and inner-city Chicago students and what I’ve learned, among many, many other things, is that it’s not too hard to get someone exicted about getting outside and digging up fossils no matter where they’re from.”

Raphael Mazor

Raphael D. Mazor
Graduate student, UC Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management: Insect Biology
Richmond High School

“Pollution, development, and resource extraction have impaired rivers, wetlands, and other waterbodies. In my research, I ask the question, what can biological communities and populations tell us about the health of aquatic ecosystems? I evaluate several common approaches to biomonitoring to determine their strengths and weaknesses in identifying impaired waterbodies.  In particular, I study an endangered fairy shrimp endemic to the vernal pools of California, Branchinecta conservatio. Habitat loss and land use change may have greatly impeded the ability of this shrimp to disperse between its habitats, increasing the probability of extinction. I hope that this research will assist conservationists in protecting a unique component of California’s biodiversity.”

Alison Purcell

Alison Purcell
Graduate Student, UC Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management; Bachelors degree in Environmental Science from the University of Oregon
Berkeley High School

“I am interested in the ecology of rivers and streams. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so my passion is examining stream restoration techniques that improve the degraded condition of local urban streams. I am also looking at a predator-prey interaction of a voracious fly predator that eats caddisfly egg masses. I love this research because the predator is so gruesome it is like something from a science fiction movie! I am looking forward to sharing my enthusiasm for the natural world with the students in the GK-12 program and hopefully spark their interest in the wonders of biodiversity.”

Jen Skene

Jen Skene
Graduate Student, UC Berkeley, Department of Integrative Biology; Bachelors degree from Brown University
Adams Middle School

“My research focuses on marine ecology. I work in the marine intertidal, and I am studying the factors that determine the distribution of Pelvetiopsis limitata, a brown alga that lives on California's rocky shores. I am looking at how conspecific neighbors, herbivores, and physical conditions influence where this species can live. I am also interested in conservation and the causes and effects of climate change. When I am not doing research, I like to travel, read, and go rock climbing.”

Nicole VanderSal

Nicole D. VanderSal
Graduate student, UC Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management: Insect Biology; Bachelors degree from Cornell University; major in Biology, concentration in Neurobiology and Behavor
Pittsburg High School

“At the age of six I told my mother that I wanted to be a “bug scientist” but as I got older I went to college in order to become a doctor. However, when I began a research project on spiders, I went back to my childhood dream and decided to come to UC Berkeley to study spiders and insects. I am currently studying how jumping spider learning is changed when distasteful prey use different types of warning signals. I do some of my experiments in a lab at UC Berkeley, and others at a mountain range in southern Arizona. I am looking forward to the GK-12 program because I thoroughly enjoy teaching science to students of all ages and encouraging people to ask questions about the world around them.”

 

Previous Years

Student profiles for 2004–2005 Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants
Student profiles for 2003–2004 Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants

 
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