The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences is at the forefront of efforts to understand two of the most important topics of our time: the nature and future of life on Earth. Based in San Francisco, the institute is home to more than 60 research scientists and aquarium biologists, as well as nearly 46 million scientific specimens from around the world—close to 40,000 of which are alive and on display in the Academy’s Steinhart Aquarium. The institute also leverages the expertise and efforts of more than 100 international Research and Field Associates and 300 distinguished Fellows. Through expeditions around the globe, captive breeding programs, and investigations in the lab, the institute’s scientists strive to understand the evolution and interconnectedness of life. Through these same efforts, as well as through partnerships, community outreach, and public engagement initiatives, the institute aims to guide critical conservation decisions and address the challenge of sustainability.
Award ceremony to take place on October 14, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO (October 10, 2014) — The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce that 13 new members have joined the ranks of the Academy Fellows, a governing group of over 400 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 members will be inducted during the Fellowship’s next meeting on October 14, 2014. They will join such well-known Academy Fellows as Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Peter Raven, and Jill Tarter.
In the same event, the Academy will honor six retiring curators for their extensive contributions to biodiversity research and conservation. The six curators, including Drs. Frank Almeda, Thomas F. Daniel, Robert C. Drewes, Charles E. Griswold, David H. Kavanaugh, and John E. McCosker, have been named Emeritus Curators and will continue to engage with Academy collections, facilities, and staff to extend the important research and mentorship they have carried out for decades.
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 medal will be awarded to Dr. Geoffrey Marcy from the University of California, Berkeley for his pioneering research on exoplanets. Brief biographies for the Fellows Medal recipient and each of the new Fellows are included below.
New Academy Fellows
Shannon N. Bennett
Department of Microbiology, California Academy of Sciences
Dr. Bennett is the Academy’s first-ever Associate Curator of Microbiology, specializing in infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. She uses advanced technologies to study viruses like hantavirus, as well as bacteria like those found in mosquito vectors. Bennett is interested in the genetic mutations that allow viruses to jump to new hosts or cause epidemics. Prior to joining the Academy, Bennett served as an Associate Professor at the Asia-Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine & Infectious Diseases at the University of Hawaii. She received her BS from McGill University and her PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia.
David C. Blackburn
Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Anthropology, California Academy of Sciences
Dr. Blackburn is Associate Curator of Herpetology at the California Academy of Sciences. His research focuses on the diversity, evolution, and conservation of amphibians, with a special emphasis on African frogs. He’s currently exploring the deep-time evolution of African amphibians and reptiles, while developing new tools and resources for phenotype informatics. Blackburn is recognized for providing expertise in amphibian diversity and conservation and informatics; he also promotes student engagement in science through mentoring and grant competitions. He received his BA in Biology from the University of Chicago and his PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University.
Rauri C.K. Bowie
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
Faculty Curator, Birds Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
Dr. Bowie is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, and also serves as a Faculty Curator at the University’s Birds Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Although he focuses primarily on African birds, Bowie’s expertise in population genetics and biogeography is far-reaching and extends to small mammals, marine mollusks, inshore rockfish, and insects. Bowie’s work in phylogenetic systematics seeks to reconstruct the evolutionary history and explain the distribution of birds like African forest robins. Bowie recently accepted UC Berkeley’s 2013 Distinguished Teacher Award, and is an elected Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union.
Richard C. Brusca
Emeritus Executive Director, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona
Dr. Brusca is Emeritus Executive Director of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and a research scientist at both the University of Arizona and Mexico’s Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo. Brusca is an invertebrate zoologist, marine biologist, conservation ecologist, and author of 13 books and several popular field guides. Although he has conducted field expeditions on every continent, he has conducted active research programs in the Sonoran Desert and the Gulf of California for more than 40 years. Brusca works with several foundations, and has served on the boards of more than a dozen non-profits. He is an elected Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Linnean Society of London.
Jonathan A. Foley
Executive Director, California Academy of Sciences
Dr. Foley is Executive Director at the California Academy of Sciences, and leads the Academy in its mission to explore, explain, and sustain life. Prior to joining the Academy, Foley directed the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, where he and his colleagues made significant contributions to our understanding of global food security, land use, and the sustainability of our planet’s natural resources. Foley spent 15 years at the University of Wisconsin, where he founded the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. An author on numerous scientific papers, he is also a noted science communicator—one committed to mentoring young scientists and bringing a message of possibility and change to scientific and lay audiences alike.
Robert J. Full
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Full is a Chancellor’s and Goldman Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. He is the founder and director of CiBER, the Center for Interdisciplinary Bio-inspiration in Education and Research. This international collaboration between scientists and engineers—from academia and industry—focuses on identifying fundamental principles of biology that can inspire new hypotheses, approaches, and techniques. Full’s Poly-PEDAL Laboratory studies locomotion in many-footed creatures, such as cockroaches, crabs, and lizards. Full received a Presidential Young Investigator Award, was named a Mentor in the Life Sciences by the National Academy of Sciences, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Edgardo D. Gomez
The Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman
Dr. Gomez is Emeritus Professor of Marine Biology at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where he served as the founding director of the acclaimed UP Marine Science Institute in 1974. Gomez’s landmark career has focused on coral-reef rehabilitation and the reproduction of important marine invertebrates, like the true giant clam. Gomez was honored as part of UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honour for ocean conservation contributions, and served as a Pew Marine Conservation Program Fellow. He received his PhD in Marine Biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Dr. Gustafsson is a founder and scientist at DNA2.0 Inc., a pioneering synthetic biology company exploring new applications for gene synthesis and protein engineering in the marketplace. Gustafsson worked as a scientist, researcher, and teacher before running the bioinformatics group at Maxygen—a biopharmaceutical company—and founding DNA2.0 in 2003. A prolific inventor, Gustafsson holds nearly 50 patents and has authored nearly the same number of scientific papers. He received his PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Umeå University, Sweden.
Tessa M. Hill
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Bodega Marine Laboratory
University of California, Davis
Dr. Hill is an Associate Professor in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department and Bodega Marine Laboratory at UC Davis. Hill focuses on the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems in the geologic past, present, and future. She collaborates with marine ecologists to understand the devastating impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying creatures like oysters and sea urchins. Due to the increasing effects of changing climate, Hill is committed to translating acidification research to industry groups, policymakers, and K-12 teachers. She received her BS in Marine Science from Eckerd College, and her PhD in Marine Science from UC Santa Barbara.
Margaret D. Lowman
Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability, California Academy of Sciences
Dr. Lowman pioneered the science of canopy ecology more than 30 years ago. She has used hot-air balloons and has designed walkways, and other ways of accessing forest canopies to assess the biodiversity they harbor. Before joining the Academy, Lowman was a Professor at North Carolina State University and the founding director of North Carolina's innovative Nature Research Center at the Museum of Natural Sciences. She received her PhD in Botany at Sydney University, as well as a degree in Executive Management from Tuck School of Business. As Chief of Science and Sustainability, Lowman is responsible for the Academy’s research, exploration, and sustainability initiatives.
Michael W. Nachman
Director, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Nachman is the Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. He studies the genetic basis of evolution, from how organisms adapt to their environment to the fascinating genetic changes underlying the origin of new species. After receiving his PhD in Biology from the University of Michigan, Nachman served as an NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University and as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. Until recently, he was a Professor at the University of Arizona, and has contributed to several journals as a senior editor. Nachman was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005.
Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley
Senior Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Dr. Perlmutter is a 2011 Nobel Laureate, sharing the prize in Physics for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. He is a professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, and a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Perlmutter received his PhD in Physics from UC Berkeley, where his interest in teaching scientific problem-solving techniques to non-scientists continues to spark new courses, like Sense and Sensibility and Science. He leads the international Supernova Cosmology Project and directs the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics. In addition to numerous awards and honors, he writes popular articles and has appeared in numerous documentaries broadcast on PBS, Discovery Channel, and the BBC.
Luiz A. Rocha
Department of Ichthyology, California Academy of Sciences
Dr. Rocha is Assistant Curator of Ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences, where he studies the evolution, conservation, taxonomy, and community ecology of coral-reef fishes. He frequently combines these disciplines, invoking ecology to help explain evolutionary patterns. The objective of Rocha’s interdisciplinary research is to test existing—and propose new—hypotheses about what creates and maintains the extremely high biodiversity in and around tropical coral reefs. Rocha’s work supports conservation efforts across the globe, and he has been featured in many popular media outlets including The New York Times, Scientific American, and National Geographic magazine.
Recipient of the 2014 Fellows’ Medal
Geoffrey W. Marcy
Department of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley
Department of Physics and Astronomy, San Francisco State University
Dr. Marcy is a Professor of Astronomy at UC Berkeley, an Adjunct Professor of Physics and Astronomy at San Francisco State University, and one of the pioneers in the discovery and characterization of planets around other stars. Marcy’s research allowed for the detection of the first multiple-planet system, as well as the first Saturn-mass and Neptune-mass planets. As a co-investigator of NASA’s Kepler telescope and Alberts Chair in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at UC Berkeley, Marcy searches for Earth-size planets around other stars. Marcy is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and has won numerous awards—including the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization—for his leadership in the scientific community.
Department of Botany
Dr. Almeda has been an Academy scientist for more than 36 years, specializing in the family of flowering plants commonly referred to as “princess flowers,” and investigating questions about botanical diversity, biogeography, and evolution. He also played a critical role in bringing the Academy’s living roof to life. Almeda’s international field expeditions, from Mexico to Madagascar, have revealed the role some plant families can play in helping to inform biodiversity assessments and conservation decisions. As Emeritus Curator, Almeda will continue building collaborations in biodiversity hotspots around the world, while working on a global online biodiversity inventory project supported by the National Science Foundation and available to anyone, anywhere.
Thomas F. Daniel
Department of Botany
An Academy scientist for 28 years, Dr. Daniel has devoted his career to studying the geographic distribution, ecosystem relationships, and evolutionary history of a wide variety of plants, especially members of the family Acanthaceae. This diverse group of flowering plants—one of the largest families in the world—has inspired his many expeditions to the dry tropics of Latin America and Africa, and his discovery and description of dozens of new species. Daniel has published more than 150 scientific articles and monographs. As Emeritus Curator, he will continue work on his most ambitious project, a monograph documenting all 430 species of Acanthaceae in Mexico.
Robert C. Drewes
Department of Herpetology
Dr. Drewes explores the history and evolution of African reptiles and amphibians, as well as the environmental physiology of amphibians. Following three decades of fieldwork on the African mainland, he refocused his attention on the ancient, poorly understood biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Islands. In 2013, UNESCO designated Principe Island as a World Biosphere Reserve, largely due to Drewes’ research findings. Through his work in this region, he aims to provide a better understanding of Africa’s deep-time geologic and climatological history and will continue to raise awareness among the local citizens of the uniqueness and fragility of their surroundings.
Charles E. Griswold
Department of Entomology
During his 22 years at the Academy, Dr. Griswold has become a renowned expert on some of the world’s least understood and most maligned creatures: spiders. An evolutionary biologist, Griswold studies the phylogeny and classification of spiders around the world. He has discovered and described 322 new species, 45 new genera, and an entirely new family of spiders, known as Trogloraptor, found in Oregon caves. It was the first new family of spiders discovered in North America since the 1890s. As Emeritus Curator, Griswold will continue his work to understand the evolution and distribution of spiders. He plans to mentor graduate and postdoctoral students while continuing to share the wonders of spiders with Academy visitors.
David H. Kavanaugh
Department of Entomology
Dr. Kavanaugh has been with the Academy as both a Curator and Director of Research for more than 40 years. His work focuses on predatory ground beetles in the family Carabidae, research inspired by the group’s diversity and abundance in cold, isolated places, where changes in distribution can indicate wider environmental change. Kavanaugh studies the beetles’ evolutionary history in order to understand their relationship to climate change, and he remains committed to helping complete a full Carabidae biodiversity inventory. As Emeritus Curator, he will continue mentoring students while working to describe the hundreds of new beetle species he discovered during his storied career.
John E. McCosker
Department of Aquatic Biology
Dr. McCosker has served the Academy in a variety of capacities for 41 years. His research has focused on the evolution and behavior of a number of marine organisms, especially sharks, eels, and the fishes of the Galápagos Islands. His research on white sharks forever changed our understanding of these animals’ behavior, and helped rewrite public policies to make beaches safer. More recently, McCosker’s studies of endangered and depleted fishes—and his tireless efforts in support of their conservation—resulted in a California-wide ban on the sale of shark-fin products. An author of more than 270 popular and scientific articles and books, McCosker plans to dedicate his time as Emeritus Curator to studying eels and other fishes while advocating for the conservation of aquatic species and ecosystems.