Grad student fellows and undergrad assistants
Bradley Balukjian

Bradley Balukjian
Graduate student, Dept of Environmental Science, Policy and Management

"Science is all about people. The most prolific discoveries mean nothing if they can't be properly communicated and taught to the rest of the population. I joined GK-12 because I believe strongly in the need for us as scientists to improve our ability to relate to people outside our field and to inspire future scientists. Today's K-12 kids are tomorrow's grad students. You never know what tiny detail will spark that lifelong interest — for me, it was looking at the unnamed specks on maps in 6th grade. I became a chronic islandholic, obsessed with everything to do with islands. I study the geographic and ecological factors that drive the evolution of bugs over short and long time scales. I collect bugs from islands in French Polynesia, grind them up, and look at their DNA to tell where they came from and how much they've changed since getting to the islands. My goal in the GK-12 program is to help students find their own islands of inspiration."

Gordon Bennett

Gordon Bennett
Graduate student, Dept of Environmental Science, Policy and Management

"My research focuses on the systematics and biogeography of native Hawaiian leafhoppers. I am also interested in the coevolutionary relationships between this group, their host plants, and endosymbiotic bacteria. Other projects I have worked on include the phylogeography of Banana Bunchy Top Virus and the evolution of Drosophila worldwide. Prior to my graduate work, I taught high school science (e.g., Chemistry, Biology). These experiences have inspired me to make my long-term goal the promotion and integration of public education with my research program. I get excited about sharing experiential learning opportunities with open and eager minds. In my off-time I take pleasure in backpacking in eastern and northern California. I also do a lot of backcountry and freestyle skiing. On a day-to-day basis, music and literature are a big part of my life."

Greg Byrnes

Greg Byrnes
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology (Museum of Vertebrate Zoology)

"My interests focus on the ecological and biomechanical contexts of gliding in mammals. The goals of my research are to understand under what ecological conditions gliding has evolved and how extant gliders use this unique locomotor mode. Currently, I am examining the locomotor behavior of two groups of gliding mammals, flying squirrels and colugos. I am examining the ability of these animals to modulate aerodynamic forces with the goal of understanding how they navigate their spatially complex habitat. To examine this system, I use a variety of biomechanical techniques in both the lab and field. I am excited to be participating in the GK-12 program and look forward to introducing local students to the diversity of organisms all around them."

Peter Cowan

Peter Cowan
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology (University and Jepson Herbaria)

"Wildfires can be destructive, not only to people and buildings, but also to the plants that fuel them. However, fire is also extremely important for the persistence of some plant communities in California. I have been studying shrubs in California and Australia that depend on wildfires for their seeds to grow. I am comparing these species to others which are less dependent on wildfires. These studies will be useful in helping protect rare plants that need fire and for predicting wildfire patterns. I've really enjoyed teaching about plants and ecology and I'm privileged to participate in the GK-12 program this year. I look forward to sharing things that excite me about science and nature. When not in the lab I can usually be found backpacking, going for a bike ride, or sipping a cup of coffee."

Emily Limm

Emily Limm
Graduate student, Dept of Integrative Biology (California Biodiversity Center)

"The giant redwood forests of northern California survive the summer rainless season by capturing fog water that rolls into the forest from the Pacific Ocean. This water collects in the tall redwood canopies and drips down onto the leaves of the plants on the forest floor. I study how the ferns, shrubs, and trees of the redwood forest absorb this fog water and respond to it physiologically. I am interested in how this vital water source derived from the ocean maintains the health of redwood forest by reducing drought stress for the plants it reaches."

Jenny McGuire

Jenny McGuire
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology (Museum of Vertebrate Zoology)

"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."

Matthew Medeiros

Matthew Medeiros
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology (Essig Museum of Entomology)

"I study flightless moths that live in Hawaii. Some of them live in caves and some on the tops of the highest volcanoes on the Islands. My research attempts to discover if each island has its own unique type of flightless moth, or if a single species traveled to and colonized many islands on its own. In the process, I have found several new moth species never seen before. I enjoy studying these moths because I get to explore exciting places in Hawaii like towering volcanoes, pitch black caves, rocky lava flows, and rainforests. I also find it just amazing that some moths have become flightless. In my spare time I love reading, solving crossword puzzles, and rooting for the Oakland As and University of California Golden Bears. In the GK-12 program, I am excited to introduce students to the extremely diverse, important, and unusual world of insects."

Jessica Shade

Jessica Shade
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology

"Spreading wildflower seeds is one of the most popular parts of restoration. In the spring a vivid array of colorful flowers bloom, while the plants enhance the ecosystem by stabilizing the soil, providing shade for seedlings, and, in some cases, adding nutrients to the soil. I work with sky lupines and dove lupines, showy little plants with bright violet flowers, which are commonly used in restoration. I am studying the lupine populations that supply seed to restoration areas and determining how the diversity of the source populations effects the long-term survival of the flowers planted in restoration sites. I cannot wait to share my enthusiasm for the natural world with students involved in the GK-12 program. Outside of biology I enjoy painting, playing music, backpacking, and designing clothing."

Michal Shuldman

Michal Shuldman
Graduate Student, Dept of Integrative Biology (California Biodiversity Center)

"I am an ecologist interested in plants and soil. My research focuses on plants found only in California, especially woody shrubs. In the relatively near future, California may have new combinations of climate that do not exist in the present or combinations of climate that exist today may be absent in the future. My projects will warm the soil, simulate heat waves, and alter rain patterns in order to see which plants can tolerate 'new' climates, and which cannot. I will use this information to predict how ranges of some California shrubs may shift in the future. I really enjoy teaching and I am excited to be part of the GK-12 program because it was my experiences in elementary and middle school that sparked my interest in science. California is a biodiversity hotspot of the world and it will be fun to share with students all the amazing diversity that surrounds us. When not working on my research I can be found hiking, camping, making dinner with friends, or reading."

 

Previous Years

Student profiles for 2007–2008 Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants
Student profiles for 2006–2007 Graduate Fellows and Undergraduate Assistants
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

 
Copyright