Community Impact, Slugs Rising Above COVID-19

The Banana Slug science community continues to rise & respond to the pandemic with leadership

Spring message from the dean: How the Division of Physical & Biological Sciences is responding to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

california poppies on UCSC campus, spring 2020

California poppies bloom on main campus, April 23, 2020 (photo by C. Lagattuta)

Dear Friends of UC Santa Cruz Science,
Late winter rains kept the Central Coast of California out of drought and unleashed our flora (watch the UCSC Minute). Spring is definitely on. The beautiful days have created a bit of emotional dissonance for our Banana Slug community. Faculty and students are struggling (and mostly succeeding) to master remote teaching and learning. Campus leaders are beginning to grapple with the fallout from the pandemic on enrollments and state support. The broader community is worried about the health of the people, businesses, and institutions that make the Monterey Bay area such a unique and wonderful place to live.
Still, the Banana Slug community continues to rise and respond to the crisis with leadership:

Research & teaching

A growing number of faculty across our campus have launched research projects to address the pandemic or understand and ameliorate its impacts. The effort to establish high throughput diagnostic COVID-19 testing is picking up steam and should be ready by early May (we are awaiting the arrival of equipment to automate and speed up the procedure).
Many of our faculty are also finding clever solutions for how to juggle their teaching and research during the statewide shelter-in-place. One great success story comes from Barry Sinervo, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology. Barry has spent the last month hiking the rock outcrops and grasslands of Los Baños Grandes, California, catching lizards for research and virtual field-based teaching. I encourage you to read his message about the experience.

Student support & funding

The COVID-19 Slug Support Campaign has raised nearly $150,000 — but could use much more to help our students in need. Please give if you are able.
Given the hardship many of our students are facing right now, we have extended the deadline for three of our undergraduate student research awards to May 15, 2020. The awards range from $2,500–$3,500, providing our students with the opportunity to conduct their own research project. Please help me share these award opportunities and encourage students apply:

  1. The Undergraduate Research in Science & Technology Award
  2. The Kathryn D. Sullivan Scholarship Award in Earth & Marine Sciences
  3. The Gunderson Family Student Research in Coastal Sustainability Summer Scholarship

We have also posted a new funding opportunity, the Primary Care Physician Award, for undergraduate seniors who will be entering medical school.

Introducing our new global health program

The university’s new Strategic Academic Plan (SAP), launched in 2017, has now become very timely… and accurate. During its conception, a group of faculty members proposed that the campus should launch an effort in Global & Community Health (GCH). The idea was to use (and grow) our unique talents to address the health problems of under-resourced communities at home and abroad.
The dean of Social Sciences, Katharyne Mitchell, and I championed the ideas brought forward and proposed a hiring initiative to increase our strength in GCH. As a result, we are now launching two new undergraduate majors focused on the science of the health problems faced by under-resourced communities (disease, nutrition, and impacts from pollution and poor water quality) and the social, political, and economic factors that could decrease their vulnerability and increase their resilience. Currently, both our divisions are in the thick of recruiting faculty for the program.
Given that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a far-reaching impact on underserved communities in the U.S. and abroad, the need for a cross-disciplinary approach to Global & Community Health — one that addresses the scientific and the social factors contributing to health vulnerability — could and should be more clear. I’m proud that UC Santa Cruz is collaborating to make it a reality.

I want to hear from you

As I mention in my message from last month, we have added a new section called “Slugs Rising” to our website and to my monthly Impact Report to showcase how our campus, alumni, and supporters are meeting the challenge of the pandemic. If you are a Banana Slug, I strongly encourage you to send us updates on how you are rising to the challenge in your communities by visiting

Best wishes and stay well. Fiat Slug!
Paul L. Koch
Dean, Division of Physical & Biological Sciences
For the latest UC Santa Cruz information on COVID-19 (coronavirus), visit