Valeria Souza, a visiting scholar in Brandon Gaut’s ecology & evolutionary biology lab, will receive Mexico’s highest environmental honor, the Love of the Planet Award. Sponsored by Volkswagen, it’s given to scientists who have championed causes in basic research and conservation in Mexico. Souza won the award, which comes with $50,000, for her work in that country’s Cuatro Cienegas Basin. There, she does basic research on microbial ecology and evolution coupled with extensive educational outreach and political advocacy. Souza earned her doctorate from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, followed by postdoctoral research at UCI from 1990 to 1992. She returned to UCI for a year in 1999 and is now on a second sabbatical visit to the campus. Souza will accept her award March 25 in Mexico City.