Five Geography Grads Receive 2014-2015 Central Continuing Fellowship Awards

Congratulations from the entire Department to our five graduate students receiving 2014-15 central continuing fellowship awards! All UCSB fellowships for graduate students are described here, but let’s hear from the award winners themselves:

Mike Alonzo (Graduate Division Dissertation Fellowship): My research goal at UCSB is to develop the methods required to map forest structure and ecosystem function in urban areas. To achieve this goal, I will combine information from two types of remotely sensed data: airborne hyperspectral imagery and light detection and ranging (lidar). The former is frequently used to answer questions about vegetation health, biochemical composition, and morphology and has been previously employed to identify tree species from above. The latter, using laser pulses, can be used to precisely measure the three dimensional structure of landforms, buildings, and forests. I will use the two together in my downtown Santa Barbara, California study area to complete three projects leading to my dissertation. First, I use the hyperspectral and lidar data to identify tree species. Second, I will measure important crown parameters such as leaf area index (LAI). Third, and finally, I will use the species and LAI information to build spatially explicit models of the urban forest’s potential for air pollution removal, stormwater runoff mitigation, and building energy use reduction.

Yang Lin (Graduate Division Dissertation Fellowship): In my dissertation, I study how solar radiation contributes to the decomposition of plant litter, or photodegradation, using several field and laboratory experiments. My field experiment in Sedgwick Reserve found that ultraviolet radiation increased the mass loss rate of litter by 30%. One of my laboratory experiments found that prior exposure to field ultraviolet radiation suppressed microbial decomposition of plant litter. My on-going work compares changes in litter chemistry between photodegradation and microbial decomposition using two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance analysis. My studies hope to fill a critical gap in our understanding of carbon cycling in arid and semi-arid ecosystems, which contain at least 15% of terrestrial carbon. I would like to thank the department for nominating me for this award. I especially thank the support and encouragement from my advisor, Jennifer King, and committee members, Oliver Chadwick, and Carla D’Antonio.

Olaf Menzer (2014-2015 Dean’s Fellowship): My research at UCSB is focused on biosphere-atmosphere interactions in urban and suburban areas. A key challenge is to quantify sources and sinks of carbon dioxide in cities, which help to shape land use and land management decisions in urban areas of the future. To do this, we need a better mechanistic understanding of how different components of urban ecosystems, such as vegetation and soils, contribute to CO2, water vapor, and energy exchanges. These ecosystem responses can be investigated by making turbulent flux measurements and collecting ancillary meteorological data from tall towers in a suburban landscape. My research questions are at the intersection of Geography, Ecosystem Ecology, and Statistics. I also use methods from Computer Science, such as machine learning algorithms including Artificial Neural Networks, to model these complex ecosystem responses across time and space. In the past, I have worked on flux tower studies that synthesized measurements from forest ecosystems in North America and Europe. I have also contributed to flux tower studies in a desert ecosystem in Baja California Sur, Mexico and a subalpine forest in Niwot Ridge, Colorado.

Lumari Pardo-Rodriguez (The Graduate Opportunity Fellowship): The Graduate Opportunity Fellowship is a fellowship for increasing diversity (it’s a 1-year award of $22,000). The university describes it as follows: “The UCSB diversity fellowship programs seek graduate students from non-traditional educational backgrounds who bring an understanding of the experiences of groups historically underrepresented in higher education. The Graduate Division encourages the nomination of individuals who meet the eligibility criteria and represent cultural, linguistic, geographic, and socio‐economic backgrounds not adequately represented in the graduate student population.” They asked for a couple of things in their application, starting with a diversity statement where I was to include information regarding the economic and educational disadvantage that I experienced in my life, as well as how my current research focuses on problems related to disadvantaged groups/individuals in a society. Besides the diversity statement, I needed to submit a cv, a recommendation letter, and a 2-page research proposal.

Erin Wetherley (The Brython Davis Endowment Graduate Fellowship): The Brython Davis Endowment Graduate Fellowship is intended to provide support to students who demonstrate outstanding past academic achievement as well as future promise. It is designated for children of regular members of the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps. It provides one-quarter of fellowship support for a continuing graduate student. The objective of my research is to develop an understanding of urban vegetation evapotranspiration using remotely sensed imagery. Currently, more than half the global population lives in an urban area and it is expected that this urban population will continue to grow. The urbanization associated with this mass migration alters local energy and water budgets, impacting local climate, human health, resource use, and economic costs. Urban vegetation evapotranspiration is a key factor in the moderation of urban climate. I am investigating methods that will improve remote urban surface discrimination and describe urban evapotranspiration in order to explore how it changes across the variable urban surface.

Image 1 for article titled "Five Geography Grads Receive 2014-2015 Central Continuing Fellowship Awards"
Mike Alonzo won a Graduate Division Dissertation Fellowship

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Yang Lin also took home a Graduate Division Dissertation Fellowship

Image 3 for article titled "Five Geography Grads Receive 2014-2015 Central Continuing Fellowship Awards"
Olaf Menzer was awarded the 2014-2015 Dean’s Fellowship

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Lumari Pardo-Rodriguez was granted a Graduate Opportunity Fellowship

Image 5 for article titled "Five Geography Grads Receive 2014-2015 Central Continuing Fellowship Awards"
Erin Wetherley won the Brython Davis Endowment Graduate Fellowship