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2017 Catalyst Awards List

The following three proposals are the recipients of the third round of the President's Research Catalyst Award.

To read the press release announcing these awards, click here.

California Teacher Education Research & Improvement Network

Host Campus: UC Santa Barbara

Lead Principal Investigator: Tine Sloan, Ph.D.

Collaborating Campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Cruz

Award Amount: $1.52 million over 4 years

Technical Abstract: The need for well-prepared California teachers has never been greater, as California faces serious issues, including teacher shortages in math, science, and special education; persistent achievement gaps; calls for greater inclusion of students with special needs; the implementation of new English, math, and science standards; and new standardized assessments. This nine-campus collaboration will develop the California Teacher Education Research and Improvement Network to respond to the pressing need for research on teacher education, particularly the preparation of science and math teachers. Policymakers and educational practitioners need data on the impact of recent policy changes, the efficacy of different pathways to teach (e.g. 5th year post-baccalaureate, undergraduate, intern), and teacher preparation practices that lead to effective teachers.

Long recognized for its high-quality teacher preparation programs, and building on recent collaborations with CSU and state agencies, UC is well poised to lead large-scale research on teacher preparation to inform state and national policy and practice. The center’s research will prepare teachers to advance diversity and equity in learning, inform policy initiatives, and advance doctoral training in teacher education. Activities include examining pressing problems in educational policy and practice, establishing access to data sets, and organizing cross-campus graduate courses and summer research institutes. Expected outcomes include a central database and data access points; research reports, policy papers, and program improvement briefs; a multi-campus enterprise that positions UC for national funding competitions; system-wide doctoral preparation in teacher education scholarship; and presentations and briefings to local, regional, and state-level policymakers.


Genomic Pre-/Historic Human Population History and Health

Host Campus: UC Santa Cruz

Lead Principal Investigator: Lars Fehren-Schmitz, Ph.D.

Collaborating Campuses: Los Angeles, Merced, Santa Barbara

Award Amount: $278,036 over 2 years

Technical Abstract: In recent years, the analysis of DNA from prehistoric and historic specimens has become a valuable tool to address questions related to past population histories, including the history of human health. The advent of new sequencing technologies led to significant advances in the field, now enabling us to even reconstruct full genomes of prehistoric humans. This revolution in archeological sciences increasingly places Anthropologists/Archaeologists and especially the graduate students in these fields, who are the natural beneficiaries of this research, at a disadvantage as most Anthropology Departments do not have the educational resources and the facilities to provide the necessary training.

UCSC has invested significantly in paleogenomics, building the UCSC Paleogenomics Labs. This collaboration will establish a program that allows colleagues and graduate students from all UC campuses interested in population history and prehistoric health to use these state-of-the-art facilities for their research and to train graduate students. The program will offer both full access for graduate students to conduct research in the UCSC facilities and also service-based paleogenomic analyses for all involved PIs. Our goal is to establish a collaboration that would allow not only the inter-campus use of paleogenomic resources but also the foundation of a UC-wide program in population history.


Megafires and ecological networks

Host Campus: UC Davis

Lead Principal Investigator: Rahel Sollmann, Ph.D.

Collaborating Campuses: Berkeley, Santa Barbara

Award Amount: $271,976 over 2 years

Technical Abstract: A century of fire suppression and logging has drastically increased fuel load and thus fire risk in California’s western montane conifer forests. Climate change and the recent extreme drought have exacerbated these risk factors, resulting in longer fire seasons, with large, high-severity fires. These megafires are predicted to increase globally as the climate warms, but their effects on ecological networks and ecosystem integrity are not well understood. This research collaboration will study the effects of megafires on two tightly linked ecological networks in Californian forests: the foodweb and pollination networks.

Megafires create open and largely homogeneous landscapes that change the identity and distribution of species and the interactions among producers and consumers within these ecosystems. Similarly, severe fires change the abundance and timing of flower availability, affecting pollinator populations and plant reproductive success. These factors in turn may change network length and redundancy, affecting stability and service provision. We will collect data to construct detailed trophic and pollination networks in a recent megafire in the Sierra Nevada, paired with a more typical control site, allowing us to contrast effects of typical versus megafire disturbances on two linked networks. We aim to develop a comprehensive approach that is broadly applicable to studying variations in megafire effects (e.g. due to fire size or age). Results will help guide post-fire forest management in California, by identifying vulnerable species/interactions that require mitigation actions and/or consideration when planning management activities (e.g. salvage logging, replanting). Ultimately, this will help make western forests more resilient to novel fire regimes induced by climate change.