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© 2008 Tim Griffith

Press Center

California Academy of Sciences welcomes new Fellows, bestows annual awards

Award ceremony to take place on October 9, 2018.

SAN FRANCISCO (October 4, 2018) — The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce that 14 new members have joined the ranks of the Academy Fellows, a governing group of more than 450 distinguished scientists and other leaders who have made notable contributions to science or science 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 mission to explore, explain, and sustain life. The new members will be inducted during the Fellowship's next meeting on October 9, 2018. They will join such well-known Academy Fellows as Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Peter Raven, John McCosker, and Jill Tarter.

During the meeting, the Fellowship will present one of its members with the Academy’s highest honor: the Fellows Medal. This honor 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 Fellows Medal will be awarded to Dr. Jane Lubchenco, a marine ecologist who has made tremendous scientific contributions culminating in her leadership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and as a member of former President Obama’s science team. She is also a leader in science outreach and communication, having co-founded several nationally recognized programs to train scientists to engage effectively with the public, policymakers, media, and industry.

The fellowship will also present the Distinguished Service Award, an honor that’s given to scientists, staff, or other colleagues who have made critical contributions to the Academy itself. This year’s award recipient is Dr. Alan E. Leviton, renowned herpetologist and the editor of the peer-reviewed scientific journal the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. The Proceedings is the Academy's signature scientific publication that serves as a global resource in the natural sciences. Dr. Leviton’s dedication to the Proceedings, which first published in 1854, has been critical to sustaining a nearly unbroken publication run.

Brief biographies for the Fellows Medalist and Distinguished Service Awardee as well as each of the new Fellows are included below.

Recipient of the 2018 Fellows Medal

Jane Lubchenco University Distinguished Professor and Advisor in Marine Studies Oregon State University

Dr. Lubchenco is a marine ecologist with expertise in the ocean, climate change, and interactions between the environment and human well-being. One of the world’s most highly cited ecologists, she has served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the first U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean, and as a member of former President Obama’s science team. Lubchenco co-founded three organizations that train scientists to engage more effectively with the public, policymakers, media, and industry: The Leopold Leadership Program, COMPASS, and Climate Central. Lubchenco recently received the most prestigious award given by the National Academy of Sciences (the Public Welfare Medal) and the highest award given by the National Science Board (the Vannevar Bush Award). She was elected as a Fellow to the California Academy of Sciences in 2017. Lubchenco earned her BA from Colorado College, MA from the University of Washington, and PhD from Harvard University.

Recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award

Alan E. Leviton Curator Emeritus of Herpetology Editor of Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences California Academy of Sciences

For more than 60 years, Dr. Leviton’s research has centered on the reptiles and amphibians of Asia. He has published an atlas of the herpetofauna of Armenia, an overview of Philippine snakes, and handbooks to the venomous snakes of Myanmar and the herpetology of the Middle East. Along with the late Dr. Michele Aldrich, also an Academy Fellow, Leviton compiled a history of the Academy’s early years from 1853 to 1907 and published works on the Geological Survey of India and the origin of Gondwanaland. Leviton founded computer services at the Academy and oversaw the development of an Academy-wide computer network. For over two decades, he served as the executive director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Pacific Division, which was founded with Academy support in 1912. Apart from his ongoing research, Leviton has served as editor for the Academy’s Scientific Publications Department since 1995. His leadership in the production, editing, and peer-review process for the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences has been critical to increasing the Academy's scientific impact. Leviton earned his AB, MA, and PhD from Stanford University.

New Academy Fellows

John C. Avise Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution University of California, Irvine

Dr. Avise is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of California, Irvine, and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. A naturalist at heart and geneticist by training, his research utilizes molecular markers to study the natural histories of animals on topics ranging from genetic mating systems to gene flow, hybridization, phylogeography, speciation, phylogeny, and conservation. Avise has published more than 360 scientific articles and 31 books on evolutionary genetics, molecular ecology, natural history, and the philosophy of science.

Natalie Batalha Astrophysicist NASA Ames Research Center

Dr. Batalha is an astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center working to detect and characterize planets orbiting other stars with the ultimate goal of finding evidence of life beyond our solar system. Batalha holds an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley and a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She served as the science lead for NASA’s Kepler mission from 2011 to 2017 and led the analysis that yielded the 2011 discovery of Kepler-10b—the mission’s first confirmation of a rocky planet outside our solar system. Batalha was awarded a NASA Public Service Medal and the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award for her work.

Devaki Bhaya Research Scientist Carnegie Institution for Science

Dr. Bhaya is a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a courtesy professor at Stanford University’s Department of Biology. Bhaya has a PhD in biochemistry from Cornell University and spent several years in India before returning to the U.S. She uses molecular tools to probe how photosynthetic microbes respond to environmental stressors such as high temperature, light, limiting nutrients, and viral attack. To extend this mechanistic understanding to the environment, she and an interdisciplinary team study the molecular ecology, diversity, and interactions of extremophile microbial communities in Yellowstone National Park.

Penelope Boston Director NASA Astrobiology Institute NASA Ames Research Center

Dr. Boston directs the NASA Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames Research Center, managing large teams of scientific investigators distributed across the U.S. Boston’s personal research includes geomicrobiology and astrobiology in extreme environments with a focus on caves and mines, hot and cold deserts, and high latitudes and altitudes. Her work also investigates the geological processes that create caves on other planets, human life support issues in space environments, and robotic technologies that assist exploration and science in extreme Earth and extraterrestrial environments. Boston has authored more than 160 technical and popular publications.

Adriana Briscoe Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology University of California, Irvine

Dr. Briscoe is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine. She studies how color vision impacts ecological interactions between butterflies, predators, host plants, and the environment in the context of mimicry and species recognition. Her projects include butterfly genome assembly and the California Consortium for the Earth BioGenome Project. Briscoe holds degrees in biological sciences and the history and philosophy of science from Stanford University and a PhD in biology from Harvard University. She is a visiting research fellow at St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Carmen Domingo Professor of Biology San Francisco State University

Dr. Domingo obtained her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at the University of California, Irvine and a PhD in molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. A professor of biology at San Francisco State University since 1997, Domingo focuses on understanding the cell behaviors and signaling processes that regulate tissue formation during vertebrate development. Domingo created and directs several training programs to increase the diversity of students pursuing science degrees. She also oversees a National Science Foundation project focused on improving the career outcomes of women faculty in the sciences. She has served as the Interim Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University since fall of 2017.

Andrea Ghez Lauren B. Leichtman & Arthur E. Levine Chair in Astrophysics Director of UCLA Galactic Center Group University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Ghez, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Director of UCLA's Galactic Center Group, is a world-leading expert in observational astrophysics. She earned a physics degree from MIT and a PhD from Caltech. Ghez used the Keck Observatory telescopes to demonstrate the existence of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. She has written more than 100 papers, given over 200 invited talks, and been featured in textbooks, documentaries, and science exhibits. She is the recipient of the Crafoord Prize, a MacArthur Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, and a Packard Fellowship, among numerous other awards, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Wilfredo Licuanan Full Professor of Biology University Fellow De La Salle University

Dr. Licuanan is a Full Professor of Biology and University Fellow of De La Salle University. He is also the founding Director of the DLSU Br. Alfred Shields Ocean Research Center. Licuanan has surveyed and monitored coral reefs for over three decades, leading research teams to many previously unstudied reefs from around the Philippines including the Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands, where he discovered a new species of coral. He just completed a project that undertook a nationwide reassessment of the status of coral reefs.

Claire Max Bachmann Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics University of California, Santa Cruz Director University of California Observatories

Dr. Max is the Bachmann Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Director of the University of California Observatories. She earned her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College and a PhD from Princeton University and worked as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. At UCSC she founded and directed the Center for Adaptive Optics. Max’s current research interests include using adaptive optics and laser guide stars to dramatically improve astronomical images. She uses these tools at the Lick and Keck Observatories to study the fate of supermassive black holes during mergers of nearby galaxies.

Adina Maya Merenlender Conservation Biologist University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Merenlender is a cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a conservation biologist with over 100 scientific research articles on the forces that influence biodiversity loss. Her work in environmental problem-solving includes the use of spatially explicit decision-support systems for conservation planning. Merenlender also started the UC California Naturalist Program to foster a community of volunteer naturalists and citizen scientists that are trained and ready to take an active role in natural resource stewardship, conservation, and education. She is the co-author of Corridor Ecology and The California Naturalist Handbook.

Samuel George Philander Knox-Taylor Professor Emeritus of Geosciences Princeton University

Dr. Philander is the Knox-Taylor Professor Emeritus of Geosciences at Princeton University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the founder of the African Centre for Climate and Earth System Science in Cape Town, South Africa. He researches the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, and their role in climate fluctuations such as El Niño and La Niña, the recurrent ice ages of the past three million years, and future global warming. His books on weather and climate include Our Affair With El Niño: How We Transformed an Enchanting Peruvian Current into a Global Climate Hazard.

Beth Shapiro Evolutionary Biologist Howard Hughes Medical Institute and University of California, Santa Cruz

Dr. Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specializes in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. She develops techniques to recover increasingly trace amounts of DNA from museum, environmental, and forensic samples, and then uses these data to study how species and ecosystems evolved through time. She is particularly interested in understanding how human activities affected this dynamic process. A 2009 MacArthur Fellow, Shapiro is also an award-winning popular science author and communicator who uses her research as a platform to explore the potential of new genomic technologies for conservation and medicine.

William (Jack) Welch Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Sciences University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Welch is a Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his PhD in engineering sciences. Considered one of the founders of molecular radio astronomy, Welch’s research focuses on the formation of stars, dark dust clouds, the Michelson Interferometer Array, and the Allen Telescope Array. He was a co-discoverer, with Dr. Charles Townes, of interstellar NH3 and H2O. Today he teaches in the graduate school, upgrades the Allen Telescope Array feeds, and plans observational projects. Welch has directed the Radio Astronomy Laboratory, served as a trustee of the SETI Institute, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, among other honors.

Dawn J. Wright Chief Scientist Environmental Systems Research Institute Oregon State University

Dr. Wright has authored more than 130 articles and five books on marine geographic information systems, hydrothermal activity and tectonics of mid-ocean ridges, and coastal and ocean informatics. She has participated in over 20 oceanographic research expeditions worldwide, and was the first African-American female to dive to the ocean floor in the deep submersible Alvin. She is Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute, as well as a professor of geography and oceanography at Oregon State University. Wright is a former Oregon Professor of the Year as named by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining and sustaining life on Earth. 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 education—all under one living roof.

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 understand two of the most important topics of our time: the nature and sustainability of life on Earth. 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 sustaining them into the future. Through innovative partnerships and public engagement initiatives, they also guide critical sustainability and conservation decisions worldwide, inspire and mentor the next generation of scientists, and foster responsible stewardship of our planet.