On November 12th, SNRE PhD Candidate Zulia Mayari Sanchez-Mejia was awarded a William A. Calder III Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $4,000 for the 2012-2013 academic year. Zulia has been working in the Papuga Lab as a CONACyT PhD Fellow since January 2010. This scholarship is in honor of Dr. William Calder - former Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. From the web site (http://www.eebweb.arizona.edu/grad_info/calder.htm): "[Dr. Calder] was nationally and internationally recognized as an expert on hummingbirds, and delighted in educating the general public. He reached across the border to foster scientific collaboration with his colleagues in Mexico. He especially supported opportunities for women and people of color in academic biology, and he established several scholarships to broaden academic opportunities and inspire students who might not otherwise have pursued scientific study. Bill lived and taught passionately, combining his unbridled enthusiasm for scientific enquiry with deeply held personal ethics and compassionate human values." To be eligible for the award, a student must (1) conduct research focused in conservation biology, (2) be a graduate student at the University of Arizona, and (3) be a citizen of Mexico interested in pursuing a research career in Mexico after graduation.
Zulia is conducting research on a drought tolerant plant Larrea tridentata that dominates the landscape in the the southwestern US (“creosotebush”) and northern Mexico (“gobernadora” or “hediondilla”). The area dominated by Larrea tridentata has increased over the last 100 years, and has been linked to land degradation from increasing pressure of global change. Additional pressures from climatic changes that will affect temperature and precipitation patterns in the region will also likely affect the distribution of Larrea. This is exceedingly important because, the widespread Larrea has offered a predictable resource in generally harsh and unpredictable environment, e.g. more than 120 bee species, 21 of which are Larrea specialists, have been found on the flowers of Larrea. Critical to predicting and understanding the implications of global change is a better understanding how this dryland vegetation responds to and uses water resources. Zulia's doctoral research is focused in the study of soil moisture vertical distribution and its overall influence on albedo and the energy budget. In drylands, soil conditions strongly affect surface energy fluxes and atmospheric conditions, particularly by altering albedo.
Zulia's academic achievements, contagious personality, and enthusiastic volunteer work are undoubtedly some of the reasons she was competitive for this scholarship. She budgeted to spend the scholarship money on continued data collection and maintenance of field instrumentation and development of her professional network that would benefit (1) her future collaborations between the US and Mexico and (2) her interdisciplinary research in ecology, hydrology and atmospheric sciences through attending national and regional meetings. Congratulations Zulia!