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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Garden Club of America Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry


2016 Carly Ziter

Carly Ziter is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Using a custom-built mobile temperature sensor, urban tree data, and high-resolution images, she is studying which features of the urban forest best control temperature in Madison, WI. Do only large forested areas cool off the city, or can street trees fill this role, too? How much added benefit do trees give compared to grass, or other plants? She will determine whether the consequences of the city’s parking lots can be balanced by increasing the benefits of its parks. Her research will inform urban forest management to offset the negative economic, health, and lifestyle consequences of warming cities.

Funded by Casey Trees, Washington, DC, Zone VI

2016 Christopher B. Riley

Christopher B. Riley is a PhD candidate in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University. His project is titled,  “Just how Valuable are Exotic Trees?” He will examine the arthropod conservation value of the urban forest found across Cleveland’s network of more than 20,000 vacant lots spanning over 3,300 acres. Using a variety of arboreal sampling methods, he will assess variation in arthropod herbivore and predator diversity and abundance across the most common native and exotic tree species in order to better understand their ecological role within the broader urban ecosystem. His research will inform natural resource managers and city planners of the value of this largely ignored form of green space.

2016 Lauren Burns

Lauren Burns is pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from the School of the Environment at Washington State University, Vancouver. As part of the Hydrology, Ecohydrology, and Landscape Dynamics Lab, her research will investigate the ecosystem benefits of Portland, Oregon’s urban street tree community. She will assess the ability of deciduous and evergreen trees to mitigate urban heating of air as well as storm water runoff. This study will promote urban cooling and the protection of sensitive aquatic organisms.

2016 Rachel M. Grinwis

Rachel M. Grinwis is a student at Michigan State University where she is majoring in Horticulture with an emphasis on Landscape Design and minoring in Urban Forestry. She will test the resilience of a variety of tree cultivars to learn which will perform best in urban environments. She is monitoring twenty trees that were planted in two different locations in Detroit, MI. The project focuses on the best cultivar selection for trees in urban environments that can withstand climate change or problematic planting sites.

2015 Christopher Nytch

Christopher Nytch, Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Science, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, wins the Fellowship for a second year for his research in an understudied area—tropical urban forests. He is researching the potential for storm water mitigation by urban forests in tropical urban watersheds. In 2014 he collected original data on the partitioning of rainfall by tree structure in the Rio Piedras watershed. In 2015, he will look at the collective role of urban forests and the amount of territory they cover from several geographic positions in San Juan. An immediate goal is to incorporate forests and other green infrastructure into urban landscape design to control flooding.

2015 Jessica Debats

Jessica Debats is a doctoral candidate in Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Her dissertation, “Seeing the City for the Trees: Public Space, Climate Adaptation, and Environmental Justice,” examines how New York and Los Angeles used public-private partnerships to mitigate the urban heat island through urban forestry, particularly in low-income, low-canopy neighborhoods. Using remote sensing, planting records, tax records, census data, and historical aerial photography, Jessica will analyze how the evolution of each city’s built environment shaped the plantings in public vs. private space and low vs. high income neighborhoods.

Funded by Casey Trees, Washington, DC, Zone VI

2015 Joanna Solins

Joanna Solins is a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Davis. She is studying effects of urbanization on riparian woody plant communities and nitrogen cycling along streams in the metropolitan region of Sacramento, CA. Her research investigates impacts of altered channel form and stream flow on the composition of riparian forests, water stress in riparian trees, and nitrogen cycling in riparian soils. She aims to inform conservation, restoration, and water quality mitigation efforts in Mediterranean and other semi-arid urban environments by identifying riparian conditions conducive to nitrogen retention and the success of different tree species.

2015 Ryan Klein

Ryan Klein, M.S. candidate in Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, is pursuing a study of urban tree risk assessment. There has been little new science in this area in the last decade despite recognition that current risk management strategies result in inconsistent outcomes. Tree care professionals using visual indicators to gauge structural soundness of a tree often deliberately remove a tree while it is alive—to be on the safe side. New training protocol, TRAQ, developed by the International Society of Arboriculture can enhance consistency in risk assessment. Ryan plans to test the three main risk assessment methods to see if the outcome from each method impacts actual mitigation recommendations.

Funded by the Nottingham Family Fund, Zone VI

2014 Todd Beals

Todd Beals is a junior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, majoring in Arboriculture and Community Forestry with a minor in Information Technology. He has been in the green industry for over 18 years and helped to develop the sofware itreetools for the USDA Forest Service which is now the international standard for urban natural resource analysis. His project: Urban Forest Survivability, Viability and Effects on Micro-Climate, focuses on 1800 newly planted trees in Springfield, MA, that re-populate an area devastated by the 2011 tornado. 

2014 Michael Alonzo

Michael Alonzo is a Ph.D. candidate in Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was a GIS Analyst for Casey Trees from 2007-2010 in DC. His goal is to fuse two cutting-edge technologies, lidar and imaging spectroscopy to improve urban ecosystem modeling. He has made a citywide, spatially explicit urban forestry inventory of trees to the species level in Santa Barbara, CA. He will now map leaf area index using lidar to determine the urban forest's potential for pollution removal, carbon storage and building energy use reduction. He plans to teach and do research. 



Scholarship Opportunities Available

The GCA offers 28 merit-based scholarships and fellowships in the areas of horticulture and its related disciplines which include medicinal and tropical botany, native bird habitat, conservation and ecological restoration, desert studies, landscape architecture, urban forestry, garden history and design, coastal wetlands, and pollinator research. Club-sponsored awards are given to recognize outstanding volunteer outreach that nurtures children in the appreciation of nature.

In March of 2017, 86 scholars were awarded over $330,000 to study and research a variety of horticultural and conservation topics ranging from summer environmental study and field work, to graduate level research projects. This class of scholars represents institutions throughout our nation and some will participate in related field work around the world.

GCA Scholarships - supporting the best and brightest and furthering knowledge of our natural environment.