There was just one little obstacle to Jessica Lee Green's plan to attend the first-ever international Scaling Biodiversity workshop in Prague in the fall of 2004. And it was only small in the most literal sense. Green was expecting her second child shortly after the important October conference.
The founders of the field, whose papers I had read as a student, were going to be in attendance, she says. As a new professor, I needed to meet them.
How could she travel overseas just at the time her baby was to be born? Dean Maria Pallavicini arranged enough maternity leave to allow Green to be a visiting scholar at the Center for Theoretical Study in Prague. Green arrived far enough in advance and left long enough after her baby's birth so that travel to and from the Czech Republic was considered safe. Baby boy Mauro Z Green was born, the workshop was a success and Green was able to make the connections she needed with scholars from all over the world.
To balance family life and an academic career, women need a supportive administration, and that is the reality at UC Merced, Green says. Dean Pallavicini is a very progressive dean and mentor. She also credits her husband, a visual artist teaching at Cal State Stanislaus, with supporting her career.
Green studies microbial biodiversity, taking samples from selected locations to estimate diversity on a limited scale and then using computer and mathematical methods to extrapolate information about diversity on a larger scale. The December 8, 2004, issue of Nature featured her study, Spatial Scaling of Microbial Eukaryote Diversity. She and her colleagues found that microbial fungi found in Sturt National Park in Australia exhibit spatially predictable, aggregated patterns, from local to regional scales.
The quantitative direction being taken in the life sciences at UC Merced is a perfect fit for Green. She's also excited about pursuing field research in the valley, the foothills and the Sierra Nevada, and about working with a diverse group of students. Green's family of four is now safely back in Merced. She resumed professorial duties at UC Merced on January 10, 2005.