Learning in the Great Outdoors

Creek research

Scripps students gain the critical training and experience necessary to develop as inquisitive researchers and scientists by working side-by-side with faculty experts. Since January, four W. M. Keck Science Department faculty members have been awarded important research grants—three from the National Science Foundation and one from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: the latter went to Professor Branwen Williams, whose environmental analysis class is featured on page 22. Students will participate as undergraduate researchers in each of the grant projects, as they do in many areas throughout their studies at Scripps.

In this issue, we join some of our accomplished professors, literally in their element, as they lead students on field work to advance students’ research skills in the natural environments of Southern California. From herpetology to marine ecology to water quality analysis, there is a lot of excitement and learning taking place in the great outdoors.

Field Notes on the Experts

Scientific research undertaken by Scripps College in the lab and in the field is led by expert faculty members of the W.M. Keck Science Department. In the following pages, we feature several classes and their impressive instructors.

   Marion Preest, professor of biology

Marion PreestAn expert in ecology and systematics, Marion Preest lectures on various aspects of physiology, biology, and ecology when she’s not pursuing her own research on animal metabolism, ionoregulation and acid tolerance in fish, and muscle physiology. Preest’s dual interests in amphibians and avians—whether it’s how best to raise geckos for classroom study or investigating the internal workings of hummingbirds—have netted her numerous publication credits in magazines such as Nature and Herpetologica Review.

Branwen Williams, assistant professor of biology

Branwen WilliamsWidely published on climate and ecosystem dynamics, Professor Williams is helping redefine the discussion surrounding global warming and climate change. Her latest co-authored research ran in Science magazine earlier this year and revealed the severe damage done to the Earth’s oceans in recent human history. She has a PhD in geological sciences and a master’s in biology. She recently taught courses on global climate change and “Science and the Environment.”

Sarah Gilman, assistant professor of biology

Sarah Gilman“One major goal of my research is to understand how temperature influences the ecology and distribution of intertidal species,” says the marine ecologist. Past student projects under Professor Gilman’s aegis include the effects of air and water temperature on the feeding rates of predatory snails and the growth and survival of intertidal barnacles under warm and cool temperatures. Her own research has appeared in the Journal of Experimental Biology and Trends in Ecology and Evolution, among others. “The Living Sea” isn’t only the name of one of Gilman’s classes—it also perfectly encapsulates her ethos and what she brings to the science community at Scripps.

Bryan Thines, assistant professor of biology

Brian ThinesWith a PhD in molecular plant sciences, Professor Thines focuses his research on plants’ molecular and physiological responses to environmental stress; his writings on the mechanisms underlying circadian regulation of growth and development of plants populate the pages of such journals as Nature, Plant Physiology, and Current Opinion Plant Biology. An instructor of biology, genomics, and bioinformatics, Thines finds “warm temperature responses in plants are an especially timely topic to study, as climate change and attendant temperature variation have already influenced natural plant populations and agricultural productivity worldwide.”


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