With the $271,000 in funding provided by the award, Sollmann, a quantitative ecologist, will help analyze how megafires disrupt the forest ecosystem and food web and pollination networks. She will work with UC Berkeley Associate Professor Justin Brashares and UC Santa Barbara Assistant Professor Hillary Young, as well as other researchers at UC Davis and the U.S. Forest Service. Their research will focus on the King Fire, which burned more than 97,000 acres in El Dorado County in 2014.
“Forests are really at the heart of California economy, culture, and its ecological heritage,” Sollmann said. “The Forest Service has identified these large fires as the major threat to the integrity of California forests. We really hope to understand how large fires change forest pollination and food networks.”
Napolitano launched the President's Research Catalyst Awards in 2014 to foster multicampus, interdisciplinary research in areas of strategic importance to California and the world. Since its inception, the program has provided nearly $10 million for research focused on climate change, cultural preservation, drought, basic science, and other areas. It has created research opportunities for 50 UC faculty, nearly five dozen graduate students, and 20 undergraduates. The three awards, totaling more than $2 million, involve faculty and students from across the university with lead campuses at UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Davis. The other projects include research led by UC Santa Barbara aimed at improving teacher training and student outcomes in California’s K-12 schools ($1.5 million); and a UC Santa Cruz project ($278,000) to enhance knowledge of human health through paleogenomic research.
Rahel Sollmann Recipients were selected following a highly competitive review process. A panel of experts evaluated applications based on scholarly merit and likely impact. President Napolitano selected the winners from among the top-ranked proposals representing all areas of university scholarship. Funding for the Catalyst Awards comes from the UC president’s endowment funds, which support systemwide initiatives and projects.
Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology