Grad student fellows and undergrad assistants
Becky Chong

Becky Chong
Undergraduate Student, Department of Integrative Biology

"I study vertebrate biology and natural history, with a special interest in amphibians and reptiles. My research focuses on the distribution of geckos in the Cyrtodactylus complex on Sulawesi, an island off the coast of Indonesia. I am studying ways to tell the species apart from one another based on their genes. I am also exploring the relationship between the geography of the island and the distributions of these geckos. After my Bachelors from Berkeley, I plan to continue on to graduate school somewhere. I had an amazing experience participating in the GK-12 project last year with Mrs. Dabel's and Mr. Eby's classes and I am definitely pleased to be working with them again!"

Scott Fay

Scott Fay
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology

"It was while teaching science at a secondary school in Papua New Guinea that I discovered the amazing beauty and complexity of the coral reef. After returning to the U.S., I made the commitment to study reef ecology at Berkeley. Coral reefs are built by many different creatures, including corals, sponges, giant clams, and tiny organisms called foraminifera. Sunlight is what powers all of these reef-building organisms. They all host a single-celled algae, the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium, that gives them energy to make their carbonate skeletons. My research focuses on the ecology and evolution of this symbiosis that is critical to the survival of coral reefs. I am fortunate to get a chance to teach with the GK-12 program this year. With my knowledge of California natural history and the resources of the University museums, I am excited to share a sense of wonder about the natural world with the students."

Matt Fujita

Matt Fujita
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology

"I am an evolutionary biologist studying reptiles and amphibians to determine the processes that generate the patterns of diversity we see today. My research focuses on understanding the origin and evolution of genomic anomalies and inconsistencies often associated with unisexuality in lizards. In particular, I study the Bynoe's gecko (Heteronotia binoei) complex, which has both sexual and unisexual forms. The GK-12 program will provide an opportunity for me to share my enthusiasm for natural history, and I am thrilled to be part of this year's team."

Jennifer Hernandez

Jennifer Hernandez
Graduate student, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management

"My research focuses on native bee species in California. I am interested in the conservation of native bee diversity and how the conservation of bees can contribute to the restoration of riparian habitats. My study sites are located throughout the Central Valley. I document native bee and plant associations while also evaluating bee nesting habitats in order to determine which factors affect native bee diversity. I hope to use this information to make recommendations for habitat restoration. I am excited by the opportunity to participate in the GK-12 program. It is an excellent opportunity to get kids excited about science while introducing them to the amazing insect life that exists all around them in California."

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill
Graduate student, UC Berkeley, Department of Integrative Biology

"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."

Anna Larsen

Anna Larsen
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology

"My research focuses on human prehistory in the Pacific Islands. I study the ways that the first human inhabitants of Polynesia used plants and how these plants and their uses can help us understand the order in which the Pacific Islands were settled by people. I do genetic research in the Molecular Phylogenetic Laboratory at UC Berkeley and I have traveled throughout the Pacific Islands collecting specimens of the Candlenut tree. I participated in the GK-12 program in 2003-2004 and worked with Richmond High School students. I'm excited to work in Adams Middle School this time around, at least in part because junior high was when I found out that biology is fun stuff. When I'm not working on my dissertation, I like to go to the rock-climbing gym, to go camping and "botanizing" around California, and to craft with my friends."

Jenny McGuire

Jenny McGuire
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology

"Humans have an enormous impact on our world and our actions are resulting in hugely altered ecosystems. Some of these impacts include global warming, habitat fragmentation and introduced species. In order to determine which of these changes are likely to cause the biggest problems, we need to gain a historical perspective as to what is "normal" absent of human effects. My research looks at the California vole and how it has reacted to habitat changes over the past million years. One of the primary ways in which voles interact with their environment is through their food source. Thus, their teeth are a primary interface of interaction. I am examining changes in the shape of California voles' teeth to see if it has any correlation to climate and range changes through time and across space. This will help to inform us as to how small mammals have reacted to climate changes in the past and help us to predict future reactions."

Dan Schmidt

Dan Schmidt
Graduate Student, Dept of Geography

"I am really interested in coastal ecosystems, especially mangroves. Mangrove trees are unique because they grow in salt water — right on the edge of the ocean with their trunks above the water and their roots submerged. I am studying how changes in sea level have affected the distribution of mangroves over the past 10,000 years. I get to travel to amazing places, like Panama, where unlike California, mangroves are found all along the coast. Besides exploring mangroves, I like to teach, especially in the outdoors. I am also very good at pointing … at trees … at sunsets."

Owen Solberg

Owen Solberg
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology

"I am most interested in how disease causing, or pathogenic, organisms evolve. Most pathogenic bacteria and viruses have to evolve very quickly in order to stay ahead of the things that can stop them, such as our immune system, antibiotics, and antiviral drugs. By analyzing the genes and DNA of these organisms, we can learn how they are changing and hopefully that will help us to reduce the amount of disease in the world. My current research focuses specifically on rotavirus in rural Ecuador. Rotavirus is the world's leading cause of childhood diarrhea and of infant mortality. When I am not working in the lab, I enjoy hiking, biking, and camping in California's amazing wildlands."

Nicole VanderSal

Nicole D. VanderSal
Graduate student, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management

"My research examines how spiders learn to avoid eating poisonous insects. Insects can use different signals to show that they are poisonous or dangerous to the spider (bright colors, sounds, chemicals), and I study what signals the spiders actually pay attention to and remember. This research is very exciting for me because I have wanted to be a "bug scientist" since I was six. On top of my interesting research, I am also very glad to be teaching with the GK-12 program for a second year. I really enjoy teaching about insects and spiders as well as about how scientists set up experiments and do observational studies on the great diversity of organisms around them."

 

Previous Years

Student profiles for 2005–2006 Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants
Student profiles for 2004–2005 Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants
Student profiles for 2003–2004 Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants

 
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