California Academy of Sciences welcomes new Academy Fellows.

California Academy of Sciences welcomes new Academy Fellows. (© 2008 Tim Griffith)


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 11, 2022) — The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce that 11 new members will join the ranks of the Academy Fellows, a governing group of more than 450 distinguished scientists and other leaders who have made notable contributions to scientific research, education, and communication. Nominated by their colleagues and selected by the Board of Trustees, the Academy Fellows are partners and collaborators in the pursuit of the Academy’s mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. The new members will be inducted during today’s Fellowship's meeting, and will join such well-known Academy Fellows as Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich, Jane Lubchenco, Zeray Alemseged, John McCosker, Jill Tarter, and Andrea Ghez.

“Each of our new Academy Fellows has made remarkable contributions to science,” says Academy Dean of Science and Research Collections Shannon Bennett, PhD. “Not only do they critically advance our understanding on topics ranging from the ecology and evolution of life including humans to the dynamic processes of our universe, they are also inspiring leaders and new partners in the Academy’s mission to regenerate the natural world through research, public engagement, and collaborative partnerships”

Fellows Bruce Alberts, PhD, and Margaret Leinen, PhD, will be bestowed with the Academy’s highest honor: the Fellows Medal, which 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. A world-renowned biochemist, Alberts serves as the Chancellor’s Leadership Chair in Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. Leinen, an award-winning oceanographer, leads the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

​​The Fellowship will also present the Distinguished Service Award, an honor that is given to scientists, staff, or other colleagues who have made critical contributions to the Academy itself. This year’s award recipient is ichthyologist and world-leading shark expert John McCosker, PhD, the Academy’s Emeritus Curator of Aquatic Biology.

Brief biographies of the new Fellows, Fellows Medalists, and Distinguished Service Awardee are included below.

Recipients of the 2022 Fellows Medal

Bruce Alberts, PhD
Chancellor’s Leadership Chair in Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education

University of California, San Francisco

Bruce Alberts, PhD, is a biochemist with a strong commitment to the improvement of science and mathematics education. He has served two six-year terms as the President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) where he developed the landmark National Science Education standards that have been implemented in school systems nationwide. He was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama in 2014 and served as one of the President’s first three United States Science Envoys. From 2000 to 2009, he served as the co-chair of the InterAcademy Council, an organization governed by the presidents of 15 national academies of sciences established to provide scientific advice to the world. He is also one of the original authors of the renowned textbook The Molecular Biology of the Cell.

Margaret Leinen, PhD
Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences and Dean of the School of Marine Sciences
University of California, San Diego

Margaret Leinen, PhD, is a paleo-oceanographer whose research focuses on the study of ocean carbon cycling and past global biogeochemical climate cycles recorded in ocean sediment. She is the co-chair of the Decade Advisory Board for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. She served as a US Department of State Science Envoy for the oceans to Latin America and the Pacific from 2017-2018, and as Assistant Director for Geosciences, U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) from 2000-2007. She has also served as the President of the American Geophysical Union, President of The Oceanography Society, and Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Science. She is a Fellow of all three societies and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Service Award

John McCosker, PhD
Emeritus Curator of Aquatic Biology
California Academy of Sciences

John McCosker, PhD, retired in 2014 as the Chair of Aquatic Biology after 41 years at the Academy. He served as Director of the Steinhart Aquarium from 1976-1994 and as the Interim Executive Director of the Academy from 1988-1989 and 1995. He is a world-leading expert on sharks and is one of the earliest advocates for their conservation. He has published hundreds of scientific papers, discovered many new species, and conducted scientific expeditions around the world, building collections and critically advancing our understanding of aquatic organism evolution and conservation.

New Academy Fellows 2022

Christopher Schell, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
University of California, Berkeley

Christopher Schell, PhD, studies the behavior, physiology, and health of wildlife in cities. Specifically, he and his lab investigate how urban attributes—including infrastructure, environmental contaminants, and human attitudes and perceptions—shape mammalian carnivore traits (e.g., coyotes and raccoons). Because the distribution of such attributes is often shaped by societal inequities, Schell and his team also spotlight the need for environmental justice in urban ecological science. He is dedicated to community engagement with cultural institutions, immersive research and educational programs, and nonprofit organizations to broaden participation, diversity, and inclusion in the natural sciences. In 2022 Schell also joined the California Academy of Sciences Board of Trustees.

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, PhD
Professor and Vera Rubin Presidential Chair, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
University of California, Santa Cruz

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, PhD, is a theoretical astrophysicist whose research focuses on gamma-ray bursts and tidal disruptions around black holes. He was the lead theorist of the research team that detected the neutron-star merger, which was named the “2017 Breakthrough of the Year” in Science Magazine. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Lamat Institute at the University of California, Santa Cruz, whose mission is to provide career opportunities for young scientists—namely women and students from historically marginalized groups—and healthy spaces for scientific inquiry. He is the youngest scientist to be inducted into the Mexican Academy of Sciences.

Jessica Ware, PhD
Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History

Jessica Ware, PhD, researches the evolution of behavioral and physiological adaptations in insects, with an emphasis on how these occur in Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and Dictyoptera (termites, cockroaches, and mantises). She holds a BS from the University of British Columbia and a PhD from Rutgers University. Dr. Ware is the past president of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association and serves as current president of the Entomological Society of America. She was recently awarded a PECASE medal from the US government for her work on insect evolution.

Joseph P. Montoya, PhD
Professor of Biological Sciences
Georgia Institute of Technology

Joseph P. Montoya, PhD, studies the marine nitrogen cycle and the role of nitrogen-fixation in structuring the flow of nitrogen and carbon through planktonic ecosystems. His work is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating work in plankton biology, marine chemistry, and isotope biogeochemistry both at sea and in the lab. He has worked extensively in offshore waters, as well as in coastal regions influenced by the freshwater plumes of large rivers including the Amazon, Mekong, and Mississippi. He has a strong interest in education and outreach and was a founding member of the Georgia Tech College of Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.

Michele Nishiguchi, PhD
Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of California, Merced

Michele Nishiguchi, PhD, has focused her work on the evolutionary ecology between marine organisms and their symbiotic bacteria. Her research spans the bridge between microbial ecology and symbiont evolution, and is best known for deciphering the mechanisms for environmental transmission of beneficial bacteria that occur in animal hosts. She is passionate about introducing students from the US Southwest and California’s Central Valley to marine symbioses and microbial ecology and evolution. Between 1999-2020, she has served as a Regents professor, the Sundt Honors College Endowed Chair, Academic Department Head, and faculty at New Mexico State University. She is widely recognized for her commitment to diversity in STEM.

Oleksandr Zinenko, PhD 
Associate Professor of Zoology

The Museum of Nature, V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University

Oleksandr Zinenko, PhD, is a zoologist whose research focuses on reptile and amphibian systematics, diversity, and evolution, from Pleistocene extinctions to the radiation and classification of vipers and frogs of the Black Sea. He has recently extended his research to venom studies, specifically on snakes and the evolution of their defenses, which has critically advanced the treatment of snakebites in Ukraine. His position at the Museum of Nature is divided between research, university teaching, and popularizing science. He is particularly committed to collections and museum-based studies.

Rayna Bell, PhD
Patterson Scholar and Assistant Curator of Herpetology
California Academy of Sciences

Rayna Bell, PhD, focuses on how evolutionary processes interact with organismal traits to generate diversity in natural populations. Her research group leverages diverse tools, from 3D-imaging to functional genomics and phylogenetic comparative methods, to understand ecological and evolutionary diversity in amphibians and reptiles. Her ongoing projects include the evolution of visual systems across the frog tree of life, conservation genetics of endangered island lizards, and host-pathogen dynamics in megadiverse tropical amphibian communities. She has studied amphibians and reptiles around the world, from Australia’s Wet Tropics to the rainforests of Central Africa, and partners with government agencies, local universities, and nonprofit organizations working to conserve herpetological diversity.

Ryosuke Motani, PhD
Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology and Functional Paleoecology
University of California, Davis

Ryosuke Motani, PhD, studies the evolution and ecology of reptiles during the Mesozoic era. He is particularly interested in marine reptiles, including their emergence after the end-Permian mass extinction and radiation thereafter. He also studies functional morphology of vertebrate body structures and sexual dimorphism in both extinct and extant species. He employs modeling and testing approaches, but also enjoys fieldwork to collect fossils while learning their paleoenvironment. He was an undergraduate at the University of Tokyo, received his MS and PhD from the University of Toronto, and was a Miller postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

Sarah Kupferberg, PhD
Independent Scholar, Integrative Biology
University of California, Berkeley

Sarah Kupferberg, PhD, researches the ecology and conservation of aquatic ecosystems in California. Her research and experiments are done in free-flowing systems as well as rivers with dams, where she studies the effects of stream flow on physical and biotic conditions for wildlife. She currently works as an independent scholar researching population dynamics and disease ecology of amphibians. She consults for private engineering firms, NGO environmental groups, and natural resource agencies. She applies her expertise in frog husbandry to the re-introduction of imperiled species, and volunteers as one of the amphibian section co-editors of the journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology.

Scott Shaffer, PhD
Professor of Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biological Sciences
San Jose State University

Growing up in San Diego, Scott Shaffer, PhD, developed an early fascination with ocean life, which continues to motivate his curiosity of marine animals. Specifically, he uses biologging methods to understand the habitat use, distribution, and foraging ecology of seabirds in their marine environment. His research has taken him all around the world, but most frequently to study albatrosses in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and gulls in central California. He earned a BS in Biology from San Diego State University, and an MS in Marine Science, and PhD in Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Torben Rick, PhD
Curator of North American Archaeology
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Torben Rick, PhD, focuses on the archaeology and historical ecology of coastal and island peoples, especially on the North American Pacific and Atlantic coasts. He has active field projects in California and the Chesapeake Bay, which are collaborative with researchers from a variety of disciplines (anthropology, biology, ecology, etc.) and local Indigenous communities. Focusing on the archaeology of human-environmental interactions, this work seeks to use perspectives from the past to help understand present day environmental conditions and plan for future change.

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution with a mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and environmental education—all under one living roof. Museum hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. For daily ticket prices, please visit or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

About Research at the California Academy of Sciences

The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences is at the forefront of efforts to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco, the Institute is home to more than 100 world-class scientists, state-of-the-art facilities, and nearly 46 million scientific specimens from around the world. The Institute also leverages the expertise and efforts of more than 100 international Associates and 450 distinguished Fellows. Through expeditions around the globe, investigations in the lab, and analysis of vast biological datasets, the Institute’s scientists work to understand the evolution and interconnectedness of organisms and ecosystems, the threats they face around the world, and the most effective strategies for ensuring they thrive into the future. Through deeply collaborative partnerships and innovative public engagement initiatives, they also guide critical conservation decisions worldwide, inspire and mentor the next generation of scientists, and foster responsible stewardship of our planet.

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