2011-2012 Science & Society Fellows
Mindy Butterworth is a Ph.D. student in the School of Geography and Development, and a Global Change minor. She earned a B.A. in geography and a B.S. in psychology with a minor in biology, as well as a M.S. in geography from Virginia Tech. Informed by this interdisciplinary background, Mindy focuses on the human-environment interactions underlying health and disease. Her current work explores how climate and the physical environment, in conjunction with more "invisible" forces such as public and institutional (i.e. vector control and public health departments) management of mosquitoes, influence the emergence of dengue fever.
This fall, Lily House-Peters will begin her second year as a Ph.D. student in the School of Geography and Development and as a Graduate Research Associate with the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. Her long-time interest in water policy began almost two decades ago, while growing up in Southern California. Lily became acutely aware of the difficulty of sustaining one of the nation’s largest cities, Los Angeles, in a region with limited water supply. During each year of drought or lower than expected precipitation, the message of water conservation would be sounded throughout Los Angeles county, with lessons taught at school and commercials begging residents to limit showers to under five minutes and to take pride in brown lawns and cactus gardens. In reality, the details of how Los Angeles acquires its water and the impact on communities throughout the state of California are frightening and fascinating. The large-scale diversion projects affect farmers and fragile Sierra Nevada ecosystems.
In Arizona, Lily’s research focuses on river ecosystems in the US-Mexico border region. These biodiversity hotspots are under mounting pressure from excessive groundwater pumping to sustain cities and agriculture in the region. Using satellite imagery, climate data, and interview data, her research seeks to trace and assess regional patterns of land use change and the impacts on both the human and non-human communities who depend on the river ecosystems for their survival. As a Biosphere 2 Science & Society Fellow, Lily will be sharing her project, “Land Use Change, Climate Variability, and Riparian Resilience” with the public.
Melissa Merrick is a wildlife biologist and Ph.D. student in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, advised by Dr. John Koprowski. Prior to joining Dr. Koprowski's lab group, Melissa received her bachelor's degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University (1998) and her Master's degree from Idaho State University (2002). She has conducted research on small mammal population dynamics in alpine meadows along elevational gradients, and investigated how burying beetle populations track small mammal population fluctuations. Her Master's work focused on the thermoregulatory ability of several burying beetle species and how differential thermoregulatory abilities may allow for species coexistence. While working in montane systems of the western United States, Melissa has become increasingly interested in the ecology of sky island mammals, particularly as it relates to species diversity, endemism, and space use in the face of multiple disturbance events such as fire and invasive species. Given that disturbance events are increasing in these unique montane ecosystems, Melissa hopes to understand how these changes may influence young animal movement and settlement patterns as they leave the natal area and set out on their own. Melissa's dissertation research is focused on survival, space use, and natal dispersal in juvenile Mt. Graham red squirrels. Through this research Melissa hopes to learn whether juvenile survival is related to natal dispersal movements, whether natal dispersal is sex biased, how far individuals go, and how does forest damage from insects and wildfire influence movement behavior and habitat use. Finally, Melissa is investigating possible triggers for settlement including forest structural characteristics, food availability, density of neighbors, and the role individual behavioral differences may play in this process.
Matthew Pailes is a doctoral student who studies archaeology in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. He developed an interest in anthropology through his travels in the U.S. Marine Corps. His overseas experiences sparked a curiosity in how humans solve two basic problems. How do you get enough food to eat and who do you cooperate with to achieve this goal? Since archaeologists study how behaviors change over the course of hundreds to thousands of years they can answer these questions with a unique perspective. Hopefully, the insights gained through archaeology will help modern groups make informed decisions about long-term problems. Currently Matthew is studying how and why people formed communities that cooperated for protection and food production 1000 to 500 years ago in what is today Sonora, Mexico.
Marielle Smith is a tropical ecologist in her second year of a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona's Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. She is interested in developing management techniques that achieve a balance between biodiversity conservation, ecosystem service provision, and sustainable development in human land-use systems in the Amazon rainforest. She feels that an interdisciplinary approach is increasingly important in tackling global change issues and aims to use both ecological and social science tools to develop and assess forest conservation initiatives.
Marielle’s professional life has been split between science communication and ecological research (in places as far flung as Alaska, Mauritius, Costa Rica and England), but until now she has never managed to combine the two, and so is excited about communicating her own research at Biosphere 2.