2010

Student: Elif Tasar
Faculty: Page Chamberlain
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Reconstructing terrestrial latitudinal temperature gradients of a high CO2 Earth - A test of GCM models
Department: Environmental Earth Systems Science

One of the most useful techniques in predicting how the Earth?s climate will change in the future involves studying how it has changed in the past through the use of climate proxies. Traditionally, it has been thought that the Eocene epoch (55-34 Mya) was characterized by shallow latitudinal temperature gradients with significantly warmer poles and similar tropics compared to modern temperatures. However, climate models are at a loss to explain these shallow temperature gradients; the high concentrations of greenhouse gases needed to increase high latitude temperatures should also increase tropical temperatures. To date, no realistic feedback mechanism or theoretical ?thermostat? has been proposed that will stabilize tropical temperatures despite high greenhouse gas concentrations. This has one of two major implications. (1) Current models do not accurately represent climate feedback mechanisms such as latent heat transport, polar stratospheric cloud formation, or biological influences that would act as a thermostat to stabilize tropical temperatures while warming the poles. (2) Current interpretations of climate proxies have underestimated Eocene tropical temperatures and latitudinal temperature gradients. As such, this project will reconstruct Eocene latitudinal gradients using stable isotopic techniques.

Student: Evelyn Danforth
Faculty: Richard White
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Sustainable Grass-fed Livestock and Grassland Ecosystems
Department: History in conjunction with the Lane Center for the Study of the American West

The research involves compiling data and analyzing historical trends in Western livestock production methods in order to put the growing grass-fed production of beef, lamb, and bison into a larger historical and regional context. Danforth is mapping the data to gain a spatial understanding of the impact of grass-fed livestock on western rangelands. Her hypothesis is that while grass-fed, natural, and organic modes of production do not yet have a significant impact on overall meat production in the United States, they are beginning to have a significant impact on the management and health of grassland ecosystems in the West. Danforth?s research will examine to what extent alternative livestock production methods are economically viable in different regions of the West, which may depend on economies of scale, butchering, and distribution arrangements, and payments for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration. Danforth will also explore public land management institutions that provide incentives and barriers for these growing alternative modes of production. Her goal is to analyze the growth of these modes of production and their impact on the land, and predict what kind of growth will they see in the decade to come. Her end product will be a written report, if appropriate for peer-reviewed publication, and an interactive visualization to be developed with collaborators at the Lane Center demonstrating the spatial and temporal evolution of alternative livestock production that will be published online in the Center?s Rural West Project, and shared with media organizations.
 

Student: Helen Chen
Faculty: Peter Vitousek
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Streamwater Chemistry and Land Use on Kauai, Hawaii
Department: Biology/First Nations Futures Program

The student will sample streams that drain watersheds with contrasting land uses on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii, and analyze those samples for a suite of major elements. The project is designed to relate land use - especially agriculture, housing, and golf courses - to water quality and ultimately to coastal marine resources. The intern will also work in collaboration with Mehana Vaughan, an E-IPER student who is from the area and who will be the intern's on-site mentor.

Student: Joseph Burg
Faculty: David Kennedy
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Water in the West
Department: History in conjunction with the Lane Center for the Study of the American West

This research project seeks to explore and jump start the use of data gathering, analysis, visualization, and mapping into the Joint Program on Water in the West. It also takes advantage of a collaboration between the Center and Sunset Magazine. Burg will analyze the survey and compare the results to surveys conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, the Gallup Poll, and a survey that is currently being conducted with Bay Area water managers by Richard Luthy?s group. Burg will then provide the analysis, along with compelling ideas for visualizing the data online and in the magazine, and connect them to other research results on the web sites of the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the Woods Institute. Burg will also be closely involved in the Water in the West?s research on metrics and performance measurement systems for moving toward sustainability in California and the West. He will work with the team, led by Jon Christensen, which will be gathering available data, identifying data gaps, and prototyping a "dashboard" for visualizing and mapping actionable data for citizens, decision makers, policymakers, and journalists.
 

Student: Kate Lowry
Faculty: Kevin Arrigo
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Impacts of Climate on Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment (ICESCAPE)
Department: Environmental Earth Systems Science

Research will include preparation beforehand and research aboard the icebreaker USCGC Healy from June 15- July 22, 2010. The goals of the Arctic cruise are to understand the physics, optics, biology, and biogeochemistry of the surface ocean and sea ice and how these might be responding to recent losses in sea ice cover. Changes in biological productivity in Arctic waters have been surprisingly large over the last decade and we would like to develop tools to be able to detect these changes using space-based satellite sensors. We will deploy optical instrumentation from a small boat at each station and also do surveys of the temperature, salinity, and water properties using instrumentation on board the Healy. In addition, we will sample sea ice where possible, focusing on its optical properties and its ability to harbor microorganisms that are important to the Arctic marine food web.

Student: Lucas Janson
Faculty: Bala Rajaratnam
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Uncertainty quantification of past climate reconstructions and future climate change forecasts
Department: Statistics

Despite the natural and obvious need for uncertainty quantification of past climate reconstructions and future climate change forecasts, a transparent and comprehensive methodology is not available in the literature. There is therefore an urgent need for a cross-disciplinary approach using hard scientific tools from the environmental sciences, statistics, and physics. This research project has two main objectives. First to develop statistical methods for the uncertainty quantification of past climate reconstructions. Second to develop physics and statistical methods for introducing randomness in general circulation models in order to be able to carry out uncertainty quantification of climate change forecasts.
 

Student: Sakshi Agarwal
Faculty: David Lobell
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Energy use in food systems
Department: Environmental Earth Systems Science/Woods Institute for the Environment

The goal of this research is to develop estimates of energy inputs into food production, transport, retail, and consumption, and to identify major opportunities to reduce fossil energy use in food. One outcome will be easily understood graphics of energy flows into agriculture, similar to GCEP exergy diagrams, and another will be publicly accessible databases to query or add numbers. This is an interdisciplinary project between food experts in FSE and energy experts in Precourt Institute for Energy.

Student: Stacey Aguilera
Faculty: Stephen Palumbi
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Variation of SNPs in PMCA Genes of Lottia gigantea from an Upwelling Acidic Monterey Bay Population Compared With a Non-upwelling Santa Barbara Population
Department: Biological Sciences/Hopkins Marine Station

This study intends on discovering if one of the common intertidal animals of the California coast, the limpet Lottia gigantea, varies in its genetic makeup of the plasma membrane Ca2+ ATPase (PMCA) in relation to the acidity of its environment. The PMCA protein functions in the calcification process of many organisms and in limpets, forms its protective shell. The goal is to find unique SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) of the DNA sequence of the Monterey population that are not found in the Santa Barbara population where upwelling does not affect pH severely. Answering this question of how the PMCA genes differ between a population of a higher acidic environment and a population of a lower acidic environment will lead to understanding how acidic environments influence their inhabitants now, as well as in the future when the majority of the ocean becomes an acidic environment.