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Summer a Fertile Time for Scientific Research

June 9, 2011

Summer a Fertile Time for Scientific Research

It's not just faculty and students in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Artswho are conducting groundbreaking research this summer. Those in Engineering and Natural Sciences will be busy as well.

Engineering Professor Wei-Chun Chin recently received a summer assistantship from California Sea Grant's John D. Isaacs Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. Matt Biasca, an undergraduate student in Chin's lab, will use the assistantship to study harmful algal bloom problems common to California coastal regions.

Stefano Carpin'srobotics lab will be busy with a number of activities this summer, including experiments with humanoid robots and aerial vehicles.

Engineering Professor David Noellewill be a project leader during the three-week Telluride Neuromorphic Cognition Engineering Workshop in Colorado. During the workshop, graduate students and other researchers will build computer systems that learn from both direct human instruction and feedback on practice tasks Noelle's project is titled “Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Methods for Guided Reinforcement Learning.”

Marine biologist Michael Bemanand his students have several projects this summer, as well. Graduate student Jesse Wilson is attending a prestigious summer course in Hawaii called “Microbial Oceanography: Genomes to Biomes.” Beman also has a team studying lakes in Yosemite National park.

In addition, Beman's group will be working with fellow Professor Michael Dawsonin the island nation of Palau. They'll be studying the ecosystems of Palau's marine lakes, with Beman focusing on bacteria and Dawson on jellyfish and other invertebrates.

Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, a soil biogeochemist, will be working in the Sierra Nevada with two of her graduate students. Chelsea Arnold will work on coupled hydrology and biogeochemistry in high-elevation ecosystems, while Erin Stacy will study the biogeochemistry of fire-prone upland ecosystems.

Meanwhile, Professor Carolin Frankand her group will study giant sequoias and coastal redwoods in part of a larger project aimed at understanding if and how bacteria called endophytes might play a role in helping long-living trees adapt to a changing environment.

On the subject of trees adapting to climate change, Professor Lara Kuepperswill spend two months this summer continuing a Colorado experiment looking at how well subalpine forests will regenerate in a warmer climate and whether trees will be able to grow in what is currently alpine tundra above the tree line.

Also in Kueppers' group, graduate student Yaqiong Lu is investigating how changes in crop types and crop management, such as irrigation, affects regional climate and how climate changes affect crop growth and yield. Lu's previous work has indicated that regional climate models that ignore crop management are unable to accurately represent temperatures in agricultural regions.

Environmental systems graduate student Kaitlin Lubetkin, who works with both Kueppers and Professor Anthony Westerling, will return to Yosemite for her third season documenting the extent and causes of tree encroachment into Yosemite's iconic subalpine meadows. In August, Lubetkin will travel to the Ecological Society of America's annual meeting in Austin, Texas, to present her early findings.