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Example of NSF GRFP Proposal

15.Describe any personal, professional, or educational experiences or situations that have contributed to your desire
to pursue advanced study in science, mathematics, or engineering.

At a very young age, I was fascinated by the beautiful, colorful vegetation maps that my father had posted on his walls in
his office at UC Riverside. I watched him excitedly wake up early in the morning so he could reach his office around 7 am or
go off on a field excursion or to a conference. He loves what he does, and he makes his work appear so much fun! At that
time, I was in simple understanding: “My dad is a professor. He teaches and does research.”
After several years of general coursework, I encountered and was utterly fascinated by my first course in biology in ninth
grade. Since that time, I knew that I would work in this field. Two awards in high school gave me confidence that I can do
well in biology: (1) I made it to the California State Science Fair in ninth grade and (2) I was awarded top student in science
and mathematics. Several experiences inside and outside the biology discipline in my late high school years and throughout
college led to the realization that I needed mental and physical challenge. Based on observations of my father’s duties as a
professor, I knew that this type of job would be very rewarding to pursue. I was warned that the pathway to professorship was
long and hard, but if my father could do it, so can I.
A succession of education and research experiences in late high school and throughout college have led me to an
increased understanding and appreciation of what my father does as a professor. I was slowly getting closer to the level of
knowledge of my father, such that I can now converse with him easily about research and other issues in ecology and
evolution. My undergraduate research experiences at UC Santa Barbara have sharpened my critical thinking capabilities and
have been self-fulfilling, in which I now realize that research is a great opportunity to make a big difference in environmental
issues impacting society.
Currently I am at the next step on the road to becoming a professor: applying to graduate school and going for a Ph.D. I
remain very motivated and excited in pursuit of my professional goal.
16.Describe your experiences in the following, or describe how you would address the following in your professional
career: integrating research and education, advancing diversity in science, enhancing scientific and technical
understanding, and otherwise benefiting society.

Before I address previous experiences relating to integrating research and education, advancing diversity in science,
enhancing scientific and technical understanding, and benefiting society, I would like to share a very special experience that
integrates all four of these factors. I have participated twice in a new Shoreline Preservation course/academic internship at
UC Santa Barbara, a novel approach to integrating research with environmental education, outreach, and management
concerning local and regional issues. Guest speakers from the community and university would present important topics
(such as rigs to reefs, introduced species, endangered Snowy Plovers, and dredging sand for saving Goleta Beach) or take the
class on a local tour. Afterwards, the two researchers leading the program, the students of various disciplines and
backgrounds, and the presenters would engage in lively discussion about the issue. During the course of this program,
students were held responsible for conducting an independent research project and presenting their findings to the group. This
course trains students of all disciplines and all backgrounds to be critical thinkers about environmental issues, encourages
them to be active participants in local concerns, and teaches them how to think in a scientific mind frame. My big realization
from this rewarding experience is that doing research and the communication of research to the community and students
makes a big difference. I will make sure that the Shoreline Preservation program will continue to exist, progress, and
hopefully expand in future years.

Integrating Research and Education: The three sets of experiences that gave me the opportunity to integrate research and
education were my service as Associated Students Undergraduate Representative for the Natural Reserve System (NRS)
Advisory Committee, the conducting of a research projects on butterflies for kids, and my volunteer work as hostess for the
Riverside Municipal Museum’s Nature Lab. At the NRS meetings, a group of professors, reserve managers, and I would
discuss current issues of the reserves, pieces of relatively untouched land set aside by the UC system solely for research and
education purposes. I am very excited to participate in the process of reaching agreements, as well as watching scientific
findings actively being applied to education and management decisions. I conducted a research project concerning
disappearing native butterflies through Putah Creek Explorations at UC Davis. The challenge of the study was that I had to
present this project in such a way that kids can understand and enjoy it. My hostess position at the Nature Lab has taught me
how to communicate new findings, as well as old knowledge, to the general public.

Advancing Diversity in Science: I am one of 16 students at UC Santa Barbara who was chosen by the Graduate Division to
participate in an intense two-year research and graduate preparation program called UC LEADS (University of California
Leadership and Excellence through Advanced DegreeS). UC LEADS targets undergraduates with underrepresented
backgrounds in the sciences and gives them the opportunity to participate and excel in graduate-level research. I will fully
support this type of undergraduate opportunity as I advance in my career, and I still plan to participate and help develop the
UC LEADS program in upcoming years.
I also participated in several tutoring programs. In one program, I helped students with disadvantaged backgrounds,
economically and racially, complete their homework in math and science classes. I was happy to see that my enthusiasm for
biology and science in general rubbed off on them, and I felt I made a difference on the way they perceived their school
work, particularly their science fair projects!

Enhancing Scientific and Technical Understanding: A model I adopt for enhancing scientific and technical understanding
of ecological and environmental issues is taken from the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at
UC Santa Barbara. This program promotes an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem solving. Graduate
students of several educational backgrounds must work together to conduct research and establish policies and management
plans for a certain region or issue. Ecological and environmental problems are not just for biologists, but it is necessary for
people of all professions to understand the issues in order to promote better policy and management decisions.
I eventually want to participate in an interdisciplinary program of this structure at some point in my career.

Benefiting Society: As long as humans exist on this Earth, the environment will always be an issue. Any job relating to
research, conservation, management, and preservation of the environment and resources is a very important job. Concern for
the environment is necessary for human survival and for the maintenance and improvement of the quality of human life.
Spatial and Temporal Investigation of Environmental Factors
Influencing Salt Marsh Plant Distributions at Point Mugu, California

Estuaries are dynamic, productive ecosystems that have several human and ecological functions (1). The loss and
degradation of more than 90% of California’s wetlands have stimulated researchers to study and activists to preserve and
restore these unique habitats (2).
The elevation-based zonation model is commonly applied to salt marsh plant distributions occurring in distinct bands
and is used to predict the location of certain halophytic species (3,4,5). In many cases, topographic measurements are used as
a surrogate for environmental factors associated with different plant zones (6,4). In tidal marshes, several hydrologic and
edaphic factors have been found to correlate with elevation: frequency and duration of tidal inundation and soil salinity,
organic content, moisture, pH, nutrient concentrations, texture, and oxygen levels (7,8,9,10). Several studies have
demonstrated that salinity is a predominant factor that influences salt marsh plant distributions (11,12), but the influence of
other abiotic factors should also receive attention (13).
Because substrate salinity and other factors in coastal marshes vary over growing seasons in relation to weather
conditions and tidal activity (14), there is high probability of interactions between temporal pattern of soil characteristics and
plant phenological development; such interactions are likely to affect plant population abundance and distribution of salt
marsh vegetation (12). Seed germination, emergence, and early survival of halophytes are particularly sensitive to variations
in substrate salinity. Studies have shown that lower salinities are necessary for recruitment (12,13).
Several secondary abiotic factors have been tested in addition to salinity, including degree of water logging, and soil
moisture and texture (3,13,15,16). Few studies have specifically examined variation in soil nutrient availability in salt
marshes; this is surprising because primary production of high marsh communities is nitrogen limited (17). In some studies, it
has been shown that nitrogen additions increase salinity tolerance of various salt marsh species (18), but this correlation has
not been always clearly demonstrated (16).
Studies of salt marsh plant distributions at Point Mugu (34°06’N 119°05’S), California have not been encountered in
ecological literature. Initial observations suggest that Mugu salt marsh plant zonation does not occur in bands, but in patches
(Minnich and Vance, unpublished data). This patch mosaic distribution model presents an interesting issue: no studies to my
knowledge have assessed whether elevation still serves as a good substitute for analyzing environmental factors in a salt
marsh of non-band vegetation zonation. Even though there has been historic anthropogenic disturbance around Mugu, there
still remains relatively intact vegetation, dominated by Salicornia virginica. Other common plants within the marsh are
Frankenia salina (fairly abundant relative to S. virginica), Jaumea carnosa, Suaeda californica, Distichlis spicata, and
Monanthocloe littoralis. S. virginica, an important perennial succulent along Pacific coast salt marshes that can tolerate
extreme environmental conditions, provides habitats for a variety of bird species, serves as a refuge for invertebrates, and is a
food source for marsh detrivores (16). Despite the importance of S. virginica in western marshes, there has been little
experimental work on the abiotic factors controlling it and its competitive abilities with other halophytes (16).
In this study, three main sets of questions are posed in the spatial and temporal investigation of environmental factors
influencing salt marsh plant distributions at Point Mugu:

1.What are the main soil characteristics that influence salt marsh plant distributions at Point Mugu? What types of soil
characteristics are associated with monotypic stands of S. virginica versus regions of higher species diversity? What factors
correlate with areas of increased S. virginica recruitment?
Hypotheses: Salinity is a predominant factor for determining where salt marsh plants are located. Areas of lower salinity will
support a higher diversity of succulent species. Regions of increased salinities will be dominated by S. virginica. Soils in
regions of S. virginica recruitment will have lower salinities. Secondary characterstics that will play key roles in influencing
plant distributions are soil moisture and degree of nutrient availability.
Proposed Methods: Three sets of field studies will be set up to address these questions. (1) Two long transects totaling 550m
will be placed perpendicular to main tidal channels from the lower to upper marsh. Percent cover of vegetation will be
estimated along the transects at every meter in a 0.25 m2 quadrat. Soil redox measurements will be taken in the field at every
10 m. Two soil cores will be taken at 10-cm depths per quadrat at every 10 m. These cores will be analyzed for percent
moisture, salinity, organic content, pH, grain size, and nutrient analyses for total nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). (2) Three
to five transects about 10-20 m in length will be placed within monotypic or dense stands of S. virginica and in stands of
higher species diversity. Equivalent soil samples and measurements will be collected along these transects at every meter.
Additional samples of plant biomass will be collected and prepared for nutrient analyses. (3) During the winter and early
spring, recruitment of S. virginica will be monitored. Soil sampling (up to 10 times) will be used to assess environmental
conditions associated with recruitment.

2.Despite the patch distribution of plants in Mugu salt marsh, do topographic characteristics, including elevation and distance
from tidal channels, still serve as good correlates with soil characteristics in predicting salt marsh vegetation occurrence and
Hypotheses: Topographic measurements will serve as adequate correlates with environmental factors. Patch distribution at
Mugu will be attributed to very slight elevation changes, thus influencing degree of tidal inundation and other soil
Proposed Methods: During the field surveys of plant percent cover and soil collection, topographic measurements will also
be collected. Elevation measurements will be taken with a Global Positioning System (GPS) at every 5 m along the long
transects and at every meter along the shorter transects. The location of a few small tidal creeks running perpendicular
through the long transects will be accounted for in terms of relating vegetation cover to distance from water channels.

3. How do soil characteristics, particularly salinity, affect the germination and growth of S. virginica? How do changes in
salinity affect nutrient uptake in S. virginica? How do these properties of S. virginica help explain the patchy distribution at
Point Mugu?
Hypotheses: Salinity will have the most effect on the germination of S. virginica, in which high salinities will inhibit
germination but not necessarily reduce growth, biomass, and formation of reproductive parts in later developmental stages.
High salinities will reduce nutrient uptake in S. virginica, but addition of soil nutrients in high salinities will allow better
absorption of nutrients into plant tissues. High salinity tolerance and increased ability to uptake nutrients will allow S.
virginica to outcompete other salt marsh plants, such as F. salina, in regions of higher salinities, therefore creating monotypic
stands of S. virginica and patchy distributions at Mugu.
Proposed Methods: S. virginica seeds will be collected in the field. Manipulations of salinity and nutrients will be the main
focus of these experiments, but other soil variables may be manipulated based on the findings of Question Set 1.
-Germination: Most methodology for germination and growth experiments will be adopted from Houle et al (2001).
Twenty-five S. virginica seeds will be placed in petri dishes coated with two layers of filter paper in saline solution. Salinity
levels will be 0, 10, 20, 30, and 40 g sea salt / L. There will be 10 petri dishes per salinity level, and all 50 petri dishes will be
placed in a germination cabinet with controlled photoperiod and temperatures that are representative of typical nights and
days. Over a 30-day period, dishes will be inspected and germinated seeds will be counted and removed. Percent germination
rates will be calculated for each salinity level.
-Growth: Fifty S. virginica seeds will be placed within two layers of filter paper immersed in a constant salinity level within
a petri dish. A total of 20 petri dishes will be placed in a germination cabinet with controlled photoperiod and temperatures.
After two weeks, seedlings similar in size will be individually transplanted in 500 cm3 pots with a 1:1:1 ratio of potting soil,
vermiculite, and marsh soil of known salinity (adopted from Pennings and Moore 2001). Pots will be randomly assigned one
of five salinity treatments (0 10 20 30 40 g sea salt per L, or levels which reflect field substrate conditions), with at least 10
replicates per treatment. Temperatures and photoperiods will be controlled in the greenhouse, and after about 10 weeks,
plants will be harvested and dried. Biomass will be divided into roots, above ground tissues, and reproductive tissues.
-Salinity, Nutrients, and Competition: Approximately equal-aged S. virginica and F. salina plants will be transplanted
from Mugu in similar regions of the marsh to pots in the greenhouse with a 1:1:1 ratio of potting soil, vermiculite, and marsh
soil. Nutrient and salinity levels will both be manipulated to produce nine abiotic conditions: three different salinities with no
nutrient addition, three different salinities with moderate nutrient addition, and three different salinities with high nutrient
addition. This design will be applied at four plant densities per pot: three S. virginica, six S. virginica, three S. virginica and
three F. salina, and one S. virginica and five F. salina. There will be at least five replicates per treatment. N will be applied
as urea for the manipulation of nutrient content. After at least 10 weeks, plants will be harvested and dried. Biomass of S.
virginica will be divided into roots, above ground tissues, and reproductive tissues, and tissues will be analyzed for total N

Proposed timeline: I will complete field surveys in year one. Laboratory and greenhouse experiments will be conducted in
the second and beginning of third years. At the end of the third year, I will conduct statistical analyses and submit findings
for publication.

1. Zedler JB (1996) Tidal Wetland Restoration: A Scientific Perspective and Southern California Focus. California Sea Grant
System; 2. Zedler JB (1996) Ecol App 6:33; 3. Huckle JM, et al. (2000) Journal of Ecol 88:492; 4. Sanchez JM, et al. (1996)
Journal of Veg Science 7:695; 5. Pennings SC and DJ Moore (2001) Oecologia 126:587; 6. Zedler JB, et al. (1999)
Ecosystems 2:19; 7. Earle JC and KA Kershaw (1989) Canadian Journal of Bot 67:183; 8. Zhang M, et al. (1997) Ecol App
7:1039; 9. Garcia LV, et al. (1993) Journal of Veg Science 4:417; 10. Sanchez JM, et al. (1998) Plant Ecol 136:1; 11. Rogel
JA (2000) Wetlands 20:357; 12. Houle G, et al. (2001) Amer Journal of Bot 88:62; 13. Noe GB and JB Zedler (2000) Amer
Journal of Bot 87:1679; 14. Adam P (1990) Salt Marsh Ecology. Cambridge University Press; 15. Van Wijnen HJ and JP
Bakker (1999) Journal of Ecol 87:265; 16. Boyer KE, et al. (2001) Wetlands 21:315; 17. Theodose TA and JB Roths (1999)
Plant Ecology 143:219; 18. Levine JM, et al. (1998) Oecologia 117:266.
Matt’s Research Proposal (EEKS!!! I’m dead meat!!!)

Coral reefs form the base of one of the most diverse ecosystems, creating a localized region of high productivity in an
otherwise oligotrophic environment (1,2,3), and, historically, have occurred in regions with low concentrations of inorganic
nutrients, high rates of herbivory, and a low standing biomass of macroalgae (4). However, in recent decades, there has been
an increase in the frequency of phase shifts to algal dominated benthos, correlating with a decrease in live coral cover and
diversity (5,6,7,8). Disturbance plays an important role in determining coral-algal community structure (2), and it is
hypothesized that the distributions of zooxanthellate coral and the closely associated macroalgal populations are largely
determined by physical factors, i.e., sea surface temperatures (SST), light penetration, nutrient concentrations, and salinity, as
well as biological factors, including herbivory, predation, and competition (3,9,10,11). Accordingly, phase shifts have been
observed following large-scale disturbances, both natural and anthropogenic, and it is thought that human activities, such as
overfishing, sewage discharge, deforestation, and agriculture, increasingly threaten many reefs around the world by
decreasing the standing stock of herbivores (6), increasing nutrient concentrations and eutrophication (8), and increasing
sedimentation (12). Additionally, anthropogenic disturbances may indirectly intensify the effects of natural disturbances and
increase the persistence of phase shifts once established (10). Given the current rate of population increase, it is increasingly
likely that the degradation of coral reefs will continue to be a critical focus of both current scientific and management
In order to address the seminal question of coral reef sustainability, we must further understand the complex
interactions of top-down and bottom-up factors that lead to an algal dominated benthos (10,4,13). In March 2002, I took part
in a research cruise to ETP reefs of Panamá funded by NSF grant OCE-0002317 to Peter Glynn; research included field
surveys of coral-algal community structure, setting up a long-term recruitment experiment, and performing a 5-day, 2-factor,
in situ experiment that assessed Acanthophera spicifera (Rhodophyta) growth rates as determined by nutrient enrichment and
position within reef zones on Uva Island reef. Through this preliminary work, I was able to locate study sites and assess the
feasibility of the following proposed research. Benthic surveys showed that algal abundance increased from the reef flat to
the base, and that there was a negative relationship between coral and algal abundance. Additionally, we found that nutrient
addition significantly increased algal growth (ANOVA for wet weights, p = 0.0002), but we did not detect a reef zone effect,
possibly due to the short duration of the experiment and high variability (ANOVA, p = 0.2581). Our findings indicate that A.
spicifera growth is not nutrient replete, but can be enhanced under conditions of nutrient influx, indicating a bottom-up
control of macroalgal abundance. Future studies are needed to evaluate the individual and additive roles of temperature,
nutrient abundance, and herbivory in controlling coral-algal interactions. Additionally, in situ manipulative studies are
needed to study variability in coral-algal interactions across reef zones, between seasons, and between geographical locations.
I propose to investigate 3 factors-- algal recruitment, coral-algal competition, and coral diversity-- that conceivably mediate
the frequency and persistence of phase shifts to algal-dominated benthic communities in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP)
and Caribbean reefs of Panamá. Additionally, a simulation model that incorporates the different ecological and evolutionary
histories of coral reefs may provide valuable insights into the expected level of coral degradation and subsequent recovery
following various types of disturbance (14).
Experimental Approaches
Algal Recruitment Hypotheses: 1) Macroalgal recruitment will be greatest in conditions of low herbivory and elevated
nutrient concentrations. 2) Macroalgal growth will be limited most by herbivory and nutrient abundance along the reef crest
and upper slope as herbivore densities are greatest and nutrient shoaling is less frequent.
Rationale: Many studies have correlated increases of macroalgae with increased nutrient abundance and decreased herbivory
using field studies of impacted environments (5,6,7), and single factor analyses have separately identified herbivory and
nutrients as the primary factors that control benthic coral-algal assemblages (15 and 8, respectively). However, it is much
more likely that both top-down and bottom-up factors form complex interactions that can only be identified through
manipulative field study.
Approach: The purpose of this study is to examine algal recruitment under experimentally manipulated nutrient additions
(+N) and herbivore exclusions (caged) across reef zones. The experiment will be performed using a randomized block
design, including the following treatments: 1) +N, 2) caged, 3)caged and +N, and 4) control (uncaged, no nutrients added).
Treatments will be randomly assigned within blocks, 5 replicate blocks will be placed within each of the 4 reef zones (base,
slope, crest, and flat), and run for a duration of at least 3 months. Benthic community structure will be monitored by
measuring the change in percent cover of benthic organisms within 0.5 x 0.5-m2 permanent quadrats, and algal recruitment
will be monitored by placing settling plates along the periphery of the quadrats. Changes in biomass accumulation to settling
plates will be recorded bimonthly following the methodology of Smith et al. (2001).
Coral-algal competition Hypotheses: 1)coral-algal competition is enhanced during conditions of reduced herbivory and
increased nutrient availability. 2)algal competitive dominance is enhanced during conditions of cool SST and elevated
Rationale: There has been widespread acceptance that algae adversely affect corals through interspecific competition, and
that algal competitive ability is enhanced during cool upwelling conditions, which have been correlated with phase shifts to
algal dominated benthos in the ETP (7). However, there have been relatively few manipulative studies that directly show that
the presence of one competitor adversely affects the other (reviewed in 16). Even fewer studies have examined the effects of
herbivory and nutrient enrichment on the outcome of coral-algal competition using an experimental design that directly
manipulates the abundance of one or more competitors (13). The experiments will assess the independent and combined
effects of nutrient addition, herbivory, and SST on coral-algal competition.
Approach: I propose a reciprocal removal experiment to examine coral-algal competition as mediated by herbivory and
nutrient availability. Competitive treatments will include: 1) Algal removal, 2) coral removal by severing portions of the
coral to remove all live coral polyps, and 3) control (coral and algae co-occur). Response variables will consist of growth and
mortality rates of coral and algae in the presence and absence of the other potential competitor. Competitive treatments will
be nested within the blocks of the algal recruitment experiment in order to examine the outcome of competition as mediated
by herbivory, nutrient availability, and location within reef zones.
Laboratory experiments will manipulate temperature and nutrient levels in a factorial design. Using settling plates with
either coral or algae attached, I will compare growth and mortality rates in the presence/absence of the other competitor, and
quantify potential algal overgrowth of live coral and subsequent coral mortality under different physical conditions.
Coral diversity Hypothesis: Reefs of greater diversity are less susceptible to algal overgrowth.
Rationale: Current ecological theory predicts that more diverse communities are less susceptible to invasion due to a more
complete utilization of available resources (reviewed in 17). Additionally, diverse communities will provide less open
substrate for macroalgal recruitment as disturbances are unlikely to affect all coral species and growth forms equally;
secondly, the outcome of competition is dependent on species-specific interactions and current environmental conditions;
therefore, it is less likely that a single macroalga will be able to outcompete a diverse assemblage of coral species under the
same environmental conditions. Interestingly, the relationship between coral diversity and susceptibility of reefs to algal
phase shifts has yet to be examined using manipulative experiments.
Approach: I propose field and laboratory experiments to examine reef susceptibility to algal recruitment and overgrowth as
mediated by coral diversity and to begin identifying the mechanisms by which diversity affects resistance to phase shifts.
Longer-term field experiments will manipulate the number of coral species that co-occur within 0.5 x 0.5-m2 assemblages
and compare community stability to coral diversity over the course of a year. The assemblages will range in diversity from 0
to 4 species and include open substrate and algal turfs, simulating conditions commonly found on ETP reefs. Algal
recruitment, changes in open primary substrate, and changes in community structure will be measured weekly for the first 3
months and again at the end of a year using percent cover surveys and photographs.
Laboratory experiments will manipulate diversity, including bare (control), monospecific, or diverse (i.e., consisting of the 4
predominant coral species) settling plates. Plates containing corals will have an equivalent number of fragments attached so
as to maintain a constant percent cover regardless of diversity. Algal recruitment and growth will be compared between
plates of different coral diversity. This experiment will allow me to determine the hierarchy of susceptibility of the 4 coral
species to algal recruitment and overgrowth as well as test whether a diverse assemblage confers added resistance to algal
Modeling of coral-algal community structure Through ecological and evolutionary time, natural disturbance has been vital
in structuring coral reef ecosystems. According to the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, ecosystems with intermediate
levels of disturbance will be the most diverse (2). In recent decades, human activities have increased the overall frequency of
disturbances, changing the qualitative nature of disturbances from acute to chronic, further inhibiting coral recovery (10);
while, simultaneously, we have seen a marked increase in phase shifts to algal dominated communities and a decrease in
coral diversity. However, it is difficult to make broad predictions about the outcomes of either natural or anthropogenic
disturbances due to the high degree of temporal and spatial variability (4). The evolutionary and ecological histories of coral
reefs may provide valuable insights into the expected level of degradation and subsequent recovery from natural and
anthropogenic disturbance. Empirical data collected from the proposed studies and combined with long-term regional data
will be used to parameterize simulation models that predict coral-algal community stability (e.g., resistance to algal phase
shifts) as determined by algal recruitment, competition, and coral diversity under different physical and biological conditions.
This model may help predict the long-term sustainability of coral reefs based upon natural history and current biotic and
abiotic parameters.
Conclusion The studies outlined in this proposal will further the understanding of coral-algal community interactions as
influenced by physical and biological factors, i.e., temperature, nutrient availability, herbivory, recruitment, competition, and
coral diversity; and provide data for a benthic community model that predicts reef system sustainability as determined by
susceptibility to algal overgrowth and persistence of algal dominated phase shifts.
References 1. Odum HT & Odum EP (1955) Ecol Mono 25:291; 2. Connell JH (1978) Science 199:1302; 3.Littler MM &
Littler DS (1988) Proc 5th Int Coral Reef Congr Tahiti 4: 35; 4. Smith JE, et al. (2001) Coral Reefs 19: 332; 5. Glynn PW &
Stewart RH (1973) Limn Ocean 18: 367; 6. Hughes TP (1994) Science 265: 1547; 7. Glynn PW & Maté JL (1997) Proc 8th
Int Coral Symp 1: 145; 8. Lapointe BE (1997) Limn Ocean 42: 1119; 9. Stenneck RS & Dethier MN (1994) Oikos 69: 476;
10. Connell JH (1997) Coral Reefs 16 S101; 11. Glynn (2000) Coral Reefs 19:1; 12. Hubbard DK (1997) in Birkeland C (ed)
Life and Death of Coral Reefs. Chapman & Hall. 43; 13. Jompa J & McCook LJ (2002) J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 271:25; 14.
Hughes TP & Connell JH (1999) Limn Ocean 44: 932; 15. Hughes TP et al. (1997) J Mar Biol Ecol: 271:25; 16. McCook LJ
et al. (2001) Coral Reefs 19: 400; 17. Stachowicz JJ et al. (1999) Science 286:1577.
Previous Research Experience

Engaging in research activities has been an integral part of my life since at a very early age. Throughout elementary,
middle, and high school, I participated and won several awards in science fairs. I then started as research assistant in larger-
scale university projects my last two years of high school. I gradually progressed to small-scale independent projects in
courses and summer research programs, and at the moment, I am collaborating with a professor at UC Los Angeles on a
study of salt marsh plant distributions that we hope to eventually publish. In all these programs and labs I participated in, I
always took the initiative to ask the advisor what I was doing in the big scheme of things. In larger-scale projects, I tried to be
involved beyond data collection. In the past year, I have been finally given the opportunity to conduct my own research. My
theme thus far has been diversity of experience, and I now have accumulated enough research knowledge to have the
confidence to specialize to marine biology for my graduate career.

The following is a list and description of previous research experiences, in which I explain the purpose of the research,
my specific role, my degree of independence, and what I learned.

Annual Participation in Sciences Fairs; Riverside, CA (1989-1997)

-Conducted science projects with the help of my parents; reached the California State Science Fair 1996 and won several
regional awards other years; notable projects include “Soil pH and the Growth of the Little Marvel Pea,” “The Melting Points
of Fats and Oils and Relationships to Human Health,” “Burning Rates of California Native Shrubs,” and “Dependability of
Weather Forecasting and the 1992-1993 El Niño;” learned how to use the scientific method and developed skills in writing.

Research Assistant in the Plant and Soil Departments of the United States Department of Agriculture / Agricultural Research
Service (USDA-ARS) Salinity Laboratory; UC Riverside (volunteer Summer 1998; Job Summer 1999)
-Collected data for researchers conducting experiments on how salinity affects crops in the region; worked under the plant
and soil departments; in the plant department, I maintained greenhouses, measured dry weight, leaf area, and chlorophyll
content of plants; ground plants in preparation for mineral, cation, and anion analysis; worked primarily with soybean,
pistachio, rice, and tomato plants; In the soils department, I learned to operate pipettes and prepare dilutions, and learned to
use various machines: the chloride automatic titrator, EC meter, UV-VIS scanning spectrometer, soil grain size, pH
potentiograph, surface area analyzer BET (soil sample coating with liquid nitrogen), atomic absorption spectrometer for
sodium in soil, and DRIFT polynomial regression computer program; was under moderate supervision; was able to apply
knowledge of biology, chemistry, and statistics in a work setting.

Research Assistant for Mycorrhizal Studies in Mendicino County, CA; Department of Land, Air, Water Resources (LAWR),
UC Davis (Spring 2000)
-The purpose of the study was to determine rates of uptake of organic and inorganic nitrogen into plant tissues and how the
presence of mycorrhizae influenced nitrogen uptake; analyzed stem, leaf, and root samples of huckleberry, bishop pine, and
pygmy cypress for inorganic and organic uptake of nitrogen, performed dilutions and prepared plant samples for analysis;
worked closely with Ph.D. student Kai Rains (in the lab of Dr. Caroline Bledsoe); gained additional laboratory skills.

Research Assistant for Nitrogen Pollution Studies; UC Riverside, CA (July 2000)

-Ph.D. student under Dr. Edith Allen investigated how nitrogen pollution affects native plant growth and abundance,
primarily collected data for the project; gained additional laboratory skills.

Volunteer Research Assistant for PISCO; UC Santa Barbara, CA (Fall 2000)

-PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) is a large-scale, collaborative effort among several
universities; helped collect data for several research projects, but mainly for a study analyzing snail predation on mussels;
learned how to manipulate marine organisms in the laboratory.

College of Creative Studies Biology Student; UC Santa Barbara, CA (Spring 2001-Spring 2003)
-Admitted to the College of Creative Studies as a Biology Major; a program on campus that admits only a few students who
are very motivated and desire to engage in independent research projects in addition to coursework; assigned to faculty
mentor Dr. Armand Kuris; was able to be involved in more research activities after admission.

UC LEADS Scholar; UC Santa Barbara, CA (Spring 2001-Spring 2003)

-Sixteen undergraduates chosen to participate in a rigorous two-year program organized by the Graduate Division; students
engage in two summer research programs at two UC schools and conduct research under a faculty mentor during the school
year; additional workshops and events are organized to help students prepare for graduate school; summer research stipends
totaled over $8,000, and money available for research and travel expenses totaled over $10,000 per student for the two years.

Academic Research Consortium (ARC) Summer Research Program; UC Santa Barbara (Summer-Fall 2001)
-Collaborated with Ph.D. student Mark Torchin (under Dr. Armand Kuris) on a fish predation project called “Predator-prey
Interactions Between Killifish and Sailfin Molly Juveniles of the Ballona Wetlands, Southern California;” attempted to verify
the hypothesis that increased growth of the native killifish observed in a previous field experiment was due to the
consumption of sailfin molly juveniles; engaged in the entire scientific process: literature review, experimental design, data
collection in field and laboratory, and data analysis; oral presentation of research at a formal on-campus event, learned how to
seine fish and maintain live specimens in the lab.

Independent Research Project for Field Ecology Course; UC Santa Barbara (Fall 2001-Winter 2002)
-Wrote a proposal and conducted a study called “Fire Succession in Coastal Sage Scrub at Sedgwick Ranch, Santa Barbara
County, California” under partial guidance of Dr. Sally Holbrook for a field ecology lab course; compared native and
introduced species diversity and abundance of burned and unburned sites at a Natural Reserve System (NRS) site; was
exposed to a diversity of field techniques for experimental design and data collection in the course, in this case I used
transects and biomass sampling, learned how to use statistical programs.

Research Assistant for Bird Parasite Study; UC Santa Barbara (Winter 2002)
-Helped Ph.D. student Kathleen Whitney (under Dr. Armand Kuris) collect data for a project examining effects of
intermediate intensity of parasites in shorebirds on migration patterns such as over-summering; dissected intestines of
shorebirds in search of parasites, primarily cestodes and trematodes; learned additional dissecting skills and some
identification of parasites.

Research Writing in Ecological Modeling and Behavioral Ecology; UC Santa Barbara (Fall 2001-Winter 2002)
-Two upper division courses, Ecological Modeling and Ethology and Behavioral Ecology, required extensive practice in
research writing skills, investigated mathematical models for mussel growth in a polluted environment, probability models
for extinction of a woodpecker population, predator-prey dynamics, and nutrient flows in a fjord; wrote research report on
status signaling in White-crowned Sparrows; worked under the guidance of teaching assistants, gained experience in math
modeling software, and experimental design and data collection techniques for behavioral ecology.

Costa Rica Tropical Biology Program; Monteverde, Costa Rica (Spring 2002)
-Performed small research experiments; wrote two large project proposals, one studying anole decreased lizard abundance at
decreasing elevations as evidence for the cloud-lifting hypothesis, another proposal examining historical reforestation
processes in Monteverde as a basis for degree of human involvement in restoring the rain forest; learned to live in rugged
conditions (camping two weeks straight, limited electricity, questionable water, no decent shower) and still do research.

Center for Academic Research and Excellence (CARE) Summer Research Program; UC Los Angeles, CA (Summer 2002)
-Devised own research project investigating salt marsh plant distributions in the lab of Dr. Peggy Fong, engaged in
collaborative research with Dr. Rick Vance since he had transects and old plant percent cover data; wrote project proposal
and progress report entitled “Salt Marsh Vegetation of Point Mugu, California: Physical Factors Influencing Spatial Pattern;”
gained experience in field work using new equipment for vegetation percent cover and standard techniques for soil analyses
(such as redox potential, moisture, organic content, salinity, pH, and grain size); increased familiarity in working with
Macintosh computers; became open-water SCUBA certified simultaneously.

Current Status: I am still working on the summer research project studying soil characteristics influencing salt marsh plant
distributions. I hope to be finished with this project by Winter 2003, and Dr. Vance and I can submit the paper for
publication. The project proposal I wrote for NSF has been based on literature, field, and lab research performed in Summer
and beginning Fall 2002. I hope to return to UC Los Angeles for graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. in biology and to
continue research on coastal and marine topics.

Publications and Presentations: Oral presentation of killifish-sailfin molly predation project at UC Santa Barbara ARC
Symposium, minor publication in the proceedings of the ARC Symposium, poster presentation at the UC LEADS statewide
meeting, poster presentation of salt marsh plant research at the UC Los Angeles CARE (Center for Academic Research and
Excellence) Undergraduate Research Symposium, plan to present findings of Summer 2002 research in the 2003 Southern
California Academy of Sciences (SCAS) Meeting.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE / Academic Awards, Work Experience, Publications/Organizations
Please mail to: UCLA
Biology (Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution)
2329A Life Sciences
Box 951606
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606

Name: Minnich,Victoria,George U.S. Social Security Number: XXX-XX-XXXX

Application filed at UCLA for the FALL 2003 term.

PROPOSED MAJOR AT UCLA: Biology (Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution)



AWARDS/DISTINCTIONS: List academic awards, prizes, honors, fellowships, and other distinctions you have

-UC Santa Barbara Æ UC LEADS scholar (UC Leadership Through Advanced DegreeS program sets up two
summer research experiences and provides money for research activities and travel for undergraduates during the
school year), biology major/researcher in the College of Creative Studies, Dean’s Honors four times,
Environmental Studies Barker Scholarship, Target Scholarship

-UC Davis Æ UC Regents Scholarship, Myron M Winslow Scholarship for Agriculture and Environmental
Sciences, Associated Students Philanthropy and Community Service Scholarship, Dean’s Honors once, other
scholarships (Robert C. Byrd Scholarship, Kiwani’s Club of Riverside, Dollars for Scholars, President’s Student
Service Scholarship, and Riverside County Credit Union)

-high school Æ valedictorian 4.67 GPA, Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction, Bank of America Award
for Science and Mathematics, Inland Empire Science Olympiad First Place for Experimental Design, several
awards in science fairs with top awards in California State Science Fair and Inland Empire Science Fair, Science
Honor Society, Golden State Seal Merit Diploma, Presidential Academic Fitness Award, California Scholarship

PERTINENT WORK EXPERIENCE: List employment occupation or activities pertinent to your graduate goals
during or since your collegiate studies.

-UC Los Angeles Æ summer research experience under Dr. Peggy Fong studying salt marsh plant distributions,
SCUBA certification

-UC Santa Barbara Æ

-research-related Æ Education Abroad Program in Costa Rica in which I wrote two project proposals for anole
lizard abundance and reforestation processes in Monteverde, independent research project “Fire Succession in
Coastal Sage Scrub at Sedgwick Ranch, Santa Barbara County, California,” summer research project “Predator-
prey Interactions Between Killifish and Sailfin Molly Juveniles of the Ballona Wetlands, Southern California,”
research assistant for project on intermediate levels of gut parasitism on shorebirds affecting migration patterns,
volunteer research assistant for PISCO (Partnerships for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans)
-education/outreach/management related Æ Associated Students Undergraduate Representative for the NRS
(Natural Reserve System) Advisory Committee, two-time participant in a new shoreline preservation course /
academic internship that integrates research with management and outreach concerning local and regional
environmental issues, proposal for environmental outreach project for Strauss Foundation “UCSB for the
Environment: A Guide to Local Knowledge, Resources, and Opportunities for Undergraduates” and was one of
three representatives for UCSB for the statewide competition, very active in ITP (Increase The Peace) Rainforest
Alliance and other campus environmental activist groups
-UC Davis Æ research assistant for project on organic and inorganic nitrogen uptake of plants in pygmy forests of
Mendicino County, California, participant in SEED (Students for Environmental Education at Davis), participant
in Putah Creek Explorations environmental education program, canvasser and field manager for Defenders of
Wildlife campaign for saving dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, intern for CalPIRG (California Public
Interest Research Group), tutor for science and mathematics

-UC Riverside Æ research assistant for project on nitrogen pollution affecting plant growth and abundance,
research assistant in the plant and soils departments for the United States Department of Agriculture Salinity

-high school and below Æ award-winning science fair projects include “Soil pH and the Growth of the Little
Marvel Pea,” “The Melting Points of Fats and Oils and Relationships to Human Health,” “Burning Rates of
California Native Shrubs,” and “Dependability of Weather Forecasting and the 1992-1993 El Niño,” independent
project “El Niño and Southern California’s 1997-98 Floods,” volunteer host of Riverside Municipal Museum
Nature Lab, participant in outreach program of Identifying Scientific Principles in Cancer Management at Loma
Linda University, participant in Bourns Science and Engineering Day at UC Riverside

PUBLICATIONS/ORGANIZATIONS: If pertinent to your proposed field of study, please list your publications and
any scholarly or professional organizations in which you hold membership

-UC Santa Barbara Æ

-publications Æ minor publication in ARC (Academic Research Consortium) of UCSB “Predator-prey
Interactions Between Killifish and Sailfin Molly Juveniles of the Ballona Wetlands, Southern California,” project
in progress to be submitted for publication “Salt Marsh Vegetation of Point Mugu, California: Physical Factors
Influencing Spatial Pattern”
-organizations Æ member AIBS (American Institute of Biological Sciences), member AAAS (American
Association for the Advancement of Science), member WSN (Western Society of Naturalists)


STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Please state your purpose in applying for graduate study, your particular area of
specialization within your major, your plans for future occupation or profession, and any additional information that
may aid the selection committee in evaluating your preparation and your aptitude for graduate study at UCLA.

PURPOSE: My name is Victoria and I am determined to receive a Ph.D. at UCLA, in eventual pursuit of
becoming a university professor in ecology, evolution, and behavior. Exposure to biological concepts by my
father in early life and a variety of experiences in my past have fueled my current motivations that will allow me
to be a successful graduate student, researcher, and teacher. My most recent research experience at UCLA in the
summer of 2002 has motivated me to specialize into marine biology.

ORIGINS: When I was younger, I had always perceived my family’s excursions to relatively non-urban settings
as very special. Trips to Greek islands, my grandfather’s cabin in the San Gabriel Mountains, Hawaii, and Pacific
coast beaches brought out an adventurous and curious side of me.

RESEARCH: I have been actively practicing the style of scientific writing since fourth grade, when I started an
annual ritual of participating in my schools’ science fairs. I tackled a variety of topics ranging from nutrition and
health to El Niño to burning rates of native California shrubs. The transition to larger scale university research
projects went rather smoothly through my participation in several research apprenticeships, then working up to
small-scale independent projects. I gained field and lab experience in several topics: soil salinity and plant
growth, nitrogen uptake of plants, nitrogen pollution impacting plants, killifish predation of sailfin mollies, fire
succession in coastal sage scrub, and intermediate levels of parasitism in migratory shore birds. My most
challenging yet most rewarding field experience was the Costa Rica Tropical Biology Program, where I learned to
live and do research in very rugged conditions. After Costa Rica, I felt I thoroughly understood the scientific
method and firmly decided I was going to be a field biologist. I am currently working on a project investigating
soil characteristics that influence salt marsh plant distributions at Mugu, California under Dr. Rick Vance and Dr.
Peggy Fong at UC Los Angeles. Through these experiences, I have established a high degree of independence in
conducting research.

EDUCATION: TO TEACH AND TO BE TAUGHT: I place value on my education and my responsibility to

educate others. Before leaving UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), I have a personal goal of being well-rounded in almost
every aspect of ecology and evolution so that I can feel comfortable in working with all types of organisms and be
supplied with a variety of research ideas. My participation in the College of Creative Studies has given me the
opportunity to fully exploit the best courses in the Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology Department and has
fostered my research interests with a variety of campus connections and resources.
My teaching and communicating skills have developed through my involvement in a series of tutoring and
environmental education projects. The best environmental education experience was my two-time enrollment in a
new Shoreline Preservation course / academic internship at UCSB, a novel approach to integrating research with
environmental education, outreach, and management concerning local and regional issues. Another rewarding
experience is holding position as Associated Students representative for the Natural Reserve System (NRS)
Advisory Committee. A group of professors, reserve managers, and I would gather every quarter to discuss
current issues of the NRS. I am very excited to participate in the process of reaching agreements, as well as
watching scientific findings actively being applied to management decisions. Additionally, my volunteer work as
a hostess for the Riverside Municipal Museum’s Nature Lab has taught me to communicate regional natural
history information to visitors of all ages.

PERSONAL TRAITS: Over time, I have acquired traits that I believe will guarantee a successful career as a
graduate student. I am organized, focused, self-reliant, resourceful, craving challenge, energetic, curious yet
skeptical, diligent, thorough, a survivor of harsh field conditions, and a person of many ideas. I have made great
effort to seize every possible opportunity to ensure my open-mindedness and generalist skills, as well as to have
the capacity to specialize and focus on research topics without losing sight of the big picture.

UCLA SUMMER EXPERIENCE 2002: My most recent experience of doing research under Dr. Peggy Fong has
been a great test of my research and communication abilities. For the first time in a summer experience, I was
given the freedom to choose my own topic, and within ten weeks I was able to write a proposal, complete most
field data collection, and write a progress report of my status. I will be finishing this project this fall, and
hopefully submit it for publication.

In conclusion, my commitment to research and education, as well as my personal qualities, make me an ideal
candidate for the pursuit of a Ph.D. in biology.

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