Professor Maureen Stanton, chair of the Department of Evolution and Ecology and the recipient of UC Davis’ top teaching prize in 2005, has been named vice provost of Academic Affairs.

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, who made the appointment, said today (July 1): “I am honored to have Professor Stanton join me in the provost’s office, where she will not only lead our Academic Affairs operations, but also contribute to the strategic development of our teaching and research in support of the campus’s Vision of Excellence.”

Stanton joined the UC Davis faculty nearly 30 years ago and has become one of the world’s most influential evolutionary ecologists. Her research, in fact, will keep her from taking up the vice provost’s office until Jan. 1.

She had planned to be gone all of the 2011-12 academic year, on sabbatical, but instead will take only the fall quarter, doing research in California and Kenya.

Professor Barbara Horwitz, a physiologist, will stay on as vice provost through the end of the year, giving her a total of 10½ years in the position. She announced in February that she would step down.

For most of her tenure in Mrak Hall, Horwitz headed a unit called Academic Personnel. Hexter, who became provost Jan. 1, gave the unit a new name, Academic Affairs, saying it “reinforced the critical strategic partnership between the provost’s office and the vice provost’s office, in all of the many aspects of Academic Affairs.”

Stanton, who goes by “Mau” (pronounced Mo), said: “I am both humbled and excited to have been selected for this position. A university cannot be great without faculty members who are dedicated to discovery, to teaching and to training the next generation of world leaders."

For almost 30 years, Stanton added, UC Davis has provided her “the opportunity to dedicate myself to these goals, and now I am eager to give back by helping to build both the excellence and the diversity of our campus’s vibrant academic community.”

Stanton, with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Stanford and a doctorate in biology from Harvard, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1982 as an assistant professor in the Department of Botany. She was 28 at the time, younger than many of her doctoral students.

Five years later, she became an associate professor. She joined evolution and ecology in 1993, as a professor, and served as the director of the Center of Population Biology from 1993 to 1998.

Stanton has been chair of evolution and ecology since 2005, and since then the program moved from “section” to departmental status, in 2008.

During her abbreviated sabbatical, she plans “to regain momentum on two research projects.”

In California, Stanton and her team are using field experiments and genetic analysis to study how species may or may not adapt to suboptimal environmental conditions encountered at the species’ range limits.

“The results of the study should help us to improve current models,” she said, “aiming to predict how species will respond to the novel selection pressures caused by processes such as biological invasion, land degradation and climate change.”

Her Kenya project is focused on understanding mutualisms, which are mutually beneficial interactions between species.

Horwitz and Stanton are both recipients of the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement, Horwitz in 1991 and Stanton in 2005.

Administrators surprised Stanton with the award in a field where she and her students had come to examine their experimental seedlings. “Teaching at the undergraduate — and graduate — level is not all that tough, really, when you have good students,” she said at the time. “It’s a joy.”

According to a Dateline UC Davis article, Stanton allowed a brief time for congratulations, speeches and chocolate cake, then urged the class to get on with their studies. “We have so much to do today,” she fretted. And soon she was off with them, striding through the calf-high grasses and vetch to help with their research.

The provost’s office announced that Stanton will earn an annual base salary of $213,000 as vice provost.

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