Karen Sears, UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has been named a 2021 Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. With this selection, Sears will be part of a governing group of more than 450 scientists, who collaborate in the pursuit of the academy’s mission: to explore, explain and sustain life.

During the past two decades, Sears’ research in evolutionary development has broadened our understanding of mammal evolution. Her research has described evolutionary transformations in mammalian evolution, and has uncovered molecular genetic mechanisms that explain how genetic variation and adaptation can lead to the development of novel sensory structures and to a wide range of limb structures, like bats’ wings or horses’ hooves.

Her research on limb development also includes work that has implications for human limb development, and how changes in environmental conditions can make limb development go awry. Recently, her research has a strong focus on the wonders of bat evolution, including a timely study of how bats can maintain high levels of viruses, like coronaviruses, in their bodies without expressing symptoms.

As a leader in her field, Sears was a founding member of the Pan-American Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology, and was named a 2020 fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

This year, Sears was nominated by her colleagues and unanimously voted in as a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences by their board of trustees. She will be inducted during the fellows annual meeting this October, joining prominent fellows such as Andrea Ghez, Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich, Jane Lubchenco, Zeray Alemseged, John McCosker and Jill Tarter.