Press Release

Andrew Ng (415) 379-5123
Kelly Mendez (415) 379-5133


Award ceremony to take place on October 9, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (September 27, 2012) — The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce that 10 new members have joined the ranks of the Academy Fellows, a governing group of around 300 distinguished scientists who have made notable contributions to one or more of the natural sciences. Nominated by their colleagues and selected by the Board of Trustees, the Academy Fellows remain members of the Fellowship for life. The new Fellows will be inducted during the Fellowship’s next meeting on October 9, 2012. They will join the ranks of such well-known Academy Fellows as Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Peter Raven, and Jill Tarter.

During the meeting, the Fellowship will also present one of its members with the Academy’s highest honor: the Fellows’ Medal. This award is given to especially prominent scientists who have made outstanding contributions to their specific scientific fields. Medalists are nominated each year by the Academy Fellows and confirmed by the Board of Trustees. This year’s honoree is Dr. David B. Wake from the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, the Fellows will present George Bell, volunteer diver at the Academy, with a Distinguished Service Award. Brief biographies for each of the new Fellows and awardees are included below.

New Academy Fellows

Jeanne E. Arnold (Honorary Fellow)
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Jeanne E. Arnold is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include archeological theory, complex hunter-gatherers, craft specialization, political evolution, and modern material culture. Arnold’s three decades of work on the prehistory and early contact era of the Pacific coast have made her a leading authority on California archeology. Among the seven books she has published are The Origins of a Pacific Coast Chiefdom: The Chumash of the Channel Islands and California’s Ancient Past. Dr. Arnold has collaborated on international field projects in British Columbia and Europe and served for 14 years on the Society for American Archaeology's National Historic Landmarks Committee, preserving the nation's cultural heritage. Her most recent book is Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, which investigates the astonishing material culture of modern American middle-class families.

Steven V.W. Beckwith
Department of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Steven V.W. Beckwith is the Vice President of Research and Graduate studies and a Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. His major research projects include Supernovae at High Z, Galaxy evolution from morphology and SEDs. In addition, Dr. Beckwith led the team that created the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the deepest visual image of the universe, resulting in the discovery of the most distant galaxies ever seen. He has published over 200 articles and won several international awards for his work. Dr. Beckwith is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute and member of the Board of Directors of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Elizabeth H. Blackburn
Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn is the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research focuses on telomeres, the structures stabilizing the ends of chromosomes, and telomerase. In 2009, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase. Among her many accomplishments, she is a Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the 2008 North American Laureate for L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science and named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2007.

Justin Brashares
Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Justin Brashares is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. Recognized as a rising star, Dr. Brashares is the Founder of the Africa Conservation Capacity Program (ACCP) and the Biodiversity, Health and Livelihoods Group (BHL). With the help of students and collaborators, his work extends beyond traditional animal conservation to consider the economic, political and cultural factors that drive and, in turn, are driven by, changes in wildlife abundance and diversity. Dr. Brashares describes his work as placed within three foci: community and population ecology of wildlife in altered ecosystems, causes and ecological consequences of wildlife utilization, and landscape planning and monitoring for wildlife conservation.

Janis L. Dickinson
Department of Natural Resources and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University

Dr. Janis Dickinson is a Professor in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University and Arthur A. Allen Director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Her fields of expertise are behavioral and population ecology, and her main research program has been a long-term study of the causes and fitness consequences of delayed dispersal and family-group living in western bluebirds. Dr. Dickinson also directs a team of scientists and education specialists who deliver several different citizen science projects. A selection of these projects includes NestWatch, a database for collecting nesting observations for North American birds; Celebrate Urban Birds, which focuses on bringing nature and science to urban, underserved audiences; YardMap, which uses social networking and citizen science to support learning and enactment of pro-environmental behaviors in yards and parks; and FeederWatch, a program that gathers data for studies of changes in ranges of wintering birds. In addition, Dr. Dickinson is a Fellow of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2007, she received the Cook Award for changing the climate for women at Cornell.

Jonathan B. Geller
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California State Universities

Dr. Jonathan Geller, a Professor and Chair at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and San Jose State University, is one of California’s premier marine molecular geneticists. Dr. Geller works with California State agencies on the detection and identification of marine invasions and participated in global projects and workshops dedicated to this issue. In addition, he collaborates with NOAA, the Smithsonian Institution, and other academic institutions in studies of biodiversity in planktonic and other complex assemblages through Next Generation DNA sequencing. Current projects include coast-wide molecular surveys of plankton, soft-sediment, and fouling communities along the western North American shore, and analysis of patterns of diversity of coral reef cryptofauna in Indonesia.

Gonzalo Giribet
Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Dr. Giribet is a Professor and Curator of Invertebrates for the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. He is also President of the International Society of Invertebrate Morphology, President of The Willi Henning Society, and a member of the External Advisory Committee to the Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History. In addition, Dr. Giribet is a long-time collaborator with the Arachnids and Myriapods section of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences. He has an exceptional publication record with over 100 articles published in scientific journals since 2006.

Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Chancellor, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Hellmann is the Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco. An oncologist and renowned biotechnology leader, Dr. Hellmann also holds the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor appointment at UCSF. Prior to joining UCSF, she spent 14 years at Genentech, serving as President, Product Development from 2004-2009. Dr. Hellmann is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. She was named to the Biotech Hall of Fame in 2007 and as the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Associate Woman of the Year for 2006. She was listed among Fortune magazine’s “top 50 most powerful women in business” for seven years, and in June 2011 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree by Princeton University. Dr. Hellmann has been a Trustee of the Academy since 2008.

Sharon Long
Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

Dr. Long is a Professor of Biology in the school of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University. She is a world leader in the study of the coevolved symbiosis between leguminous plants and their bacterial rhizoidal symbionts. Dr. Long has received numerous honors since joining the faculty at Stanford University, including a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Shell Foundation Research Award, and the Charles A. Schull Award from the American Society of Plant Physiology. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Philosophical Society. Dr. Long has been a Trustee of the Academy since 2008.

Vance T. Vredenburg
Department of Biology, San Francisco State University

Dr. Vredenburg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at San Francisco State University. His current research focuses on the impacts of an emerging infectious amphibian disease, the phylogeography of amphibians, and climate change impacts on aquatic food webs using stable isotopes. Vredenburg is the co-founder of AmphibiaWeb (, an online conservation resource for the world’s amphibians. His research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation and seeks to understand how some populations of frogs survive epidemics. Dr. Vredenburg’s work has been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New Scientist and many other outlets.

Recipient of the 2012 Fellows’ Medal

David B. Wake
Professor Emeritus, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. David B. Wake is an internationally acclaimed scientist who studies the evolutionary biology of amphibians and the amphibian extinction crisis. He is an effective advocate for biodiversity research and a strong proponent of the Academy and its mission. He is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences as well as of the American Academy of Arts and Science and the American Philosophical Society. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He served as Director of Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology for 27 years and remains an active curator. Dr. Wake has led a prolific career, winning several prestigious awards, and his career remains productive with more than 110 papers published since his retirement in 2003. His many awards and honors include the Joseph Grinnell Medal in Scientific Natural History; Henry S. Fitch Award for Excellence in Herpetology; Sewall Wright Lecturer, University of Chicago; Joseph Leidy Medal, The Academy for Natural Sciences, Philadelphia; and the Berkeley Citation.

Recipient of the 2012 Distinguished Service Award

George Bell
Volunteer Diver, California Academy of Sciences

George Bell epitomizes what it means to be a volunteer. He has consistently volunteered his time at the Academy for the past 12 years and is by far the Academy’s most active volunteer diver. He contributes well over 1,000 hours per year to the diving program, which equates to nearly one-quarter of the Academy’s total dive program volunteer hours. In addition, he provides underwater interviews to the Academy’s many visitors. Bell was recently trained as a DAN First Aid for Professional Divers instructor, and he is now teaching DAN Classes for the volunteer dive program. He was also recently nominated to serve as the first volunteer representative on the Academy’s Diving Control Board. Bell continues to show his value as a role model and mentor for all other volunteers and staff at the Academy.