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GCA Scholarships Recipients


2020 Naya Jones PhD

The Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany

On the Move: African-American Medicinal Ethnobotany and the Great Migration

Naya Jones is an assistant professor 
of Sociology and core facultyin Global and Community Health at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Culture of Health
 Leader, a program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
 A geographer, she researches African American gardens and the Great Migration—the mass migration of African Americans from the South between 1916 and 1970. For “On 
the Move,” Jones uses oral history 
and ethnobotanical and archival methods to understand how the Great Migration shaped Black medicinal plant use and gardening beyond the South. The project holds relevance for preserving botanical knowledge and for resilience in the context of global migration and climate change.

2020 Ella Thomas Vardeman

The Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany

Bioactivity and Chemotaxonomy of Plants Used by Haitian Immigrants for Women’s Health

Ella Thomas Vardeman is a PhD candidate in the joint plant sciences program at the City University of New York and New York Botanical Garden. Using ethnobotanical, microbiological, and phytochemical methods, she will research medicinal plants used by Haitian immigrants
in New York City for women’s health conditions. Specifically, Vardeman will address the risks and benefits of plants used for intravaginal cleansing and treatment of gynecological infections. Her research will also contribute to a larger urban ethnobotany project for New York City aimed at informing doctors and medical students about traditional health practices of Caribbean and Latino immigrants.

2020 Sasha Nealand

The Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany

Anti-Mycobacterial Terpenoids of the California Native Plant Grindelia stricta var. platyphylla

Sasha Nealand is a PhD candidate
in natural product chemistry 
at the University of Hawaii at
 Hilo. She conducts chemical and microbiological research isolating anti-mycobacterial terpenoids from
a California coastal plant, Grindelia stricta var. platyphylla. This plant historically has been used medicinally by native people and settlers in North and South America and Mexico 
for inflammation and respiratory ailments. She is studying this plant and its terpenoid compounds for their potential effectiveness as new anti-tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) remedies.

2020 Alaina Krakowiak

The Garden Club of America Summer Scholarship in Field Botany

Population Genetic Structure and Phylogeography of Fremont’s Leather Flower

(Clematis fremontii)
 Alaina Krakowiak is a master’s student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She studies plant population genetics and how its insights can inform effective conservation strategies. This summer she will collect samples of Fremont’s leather flower (Clematis fremontii) from grasslands and glades in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia. She will use these samples to study the differences in genetic diversity among populations and to investigate whether any populations warrant recognition as sub-specific varieties. This research will provide information for future management and conservation decisions, such as population augmentation or protection of specific populations.

2020 Sarah N Brown

The Garden Club of America Summer Scholarship in Field Botany

Plant and Pollinator Communities of Shale Barren

Sarah N. Brown is a master’s student in biology and botany at James Madison University. This summer she will be working at a shale barren site in West Virginia conducting flower inventories and pollinator surveys to investigate the complex network of interactions between the plant and pollinator communities. Found only among the central Appalachian Mountains, shale barrens are a globally rare ecosystem whose natural history
is not well studied. Her goal is to provide context for this rare ecosystem and contribute to efforts to protect it.

2020 Valerie Martin

The Garden Club of America Summer Scholarship in Field Botany

Ecology of Cross-kingdom Interactions between Plants, Pollinators, and the Diverse Microbiota that Inhabit Flowers


Valerie Martin is a masters student in biology and ecology at Utah State University. She studies the role of nectar-inhabiting microorganisms in pollination mutualisms at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory to investigate the impacts of illegitimate visitation on the floral microbiome of Corydalis caseana subsp. brandegii (Fumariaceae), their consequences for floral phenotype, and the nectar-foraging decisions of white shouldered bumblebees (Bombus appositus), the primary floral visitor of this plant species. This species is notoriously robbed by another bumblebee, Bombus occidentalis, raising the question of the role of nectar microbiota in affecting floral larceny. Insights gained from this research will contribute to the rapidly growing body of knowledge on cross-kingdom interactions between plants, pollinators, and microbiota, which may have consequences for plant fitness.

2020 Lillian Leak

The Joan K. Hunt and Rachel M. Hunt Summer Scholarship in Field Botany

Ecology and Evolution of Duckweed

Lillian C. Leak is a senior biology major at the University of Pittsburgh. Her project is “Identifying the Abiotic and Biotic Drivers of Duckweed Species Composition.” Duckweed (Lemnaceae) is a small aquatic
plant with several North American native species that are of interest in biofuel research. This summer Leak will sample duckweed populations 
in Pennsylvania, collecting environmental data and measuring species abundance. She also will run field experiments testing the impact of specific environmental drivers on species composition. The results of this project can be used for better understanding of how environments shape biodiversity and for maximizing duckweed productivity.

2020 Anna Sweeney

The Joan K. Hunt and Rachel M. Hunt Summer Scholarship in Field Botany

Restoration of Plant Biodiversity
in Adirondack Northern Hardwood Forests through Mechanical Control of American Beech Understories

Anna Sweeney is a master’s student 
in plant ecology at The State University of New York-College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Her project, “Structure of a Northern Hardwood Stand after Cutting to Control American Beech,” is about controlling dense layers of American beech sprouts on a commercial scale. These sprouts shade out all of the plants growing underneath them, reducing the biodiversity of trees and herbaceous plants.

2020 Cameron Hugh Pierce

The Joan K. Hunt and Rachel M. Hunt Summer Scholarship in Field Botany

Floristic Checklist of Gilbert’s Corner

Cameron Hugh Pierce is a recent graduate of George Mason University, with a bachelor of science degree in biology. He will be surveying a seven-acre meadow undergoing old-field succession, located in Gilbert’s Corner, Virginia. The goal of his project is
 to establish a baseline checklist of flowering plants found there. Over the summer he will collect both woody and herbaceous flowering plants to 
be dried and mounted at the Ted R. Bradley Herbarium at George Mason University. Once completed, the checklist will be made available for public use and education.

2020 Betsabé Castro-Escobar

The Garden Club of America Awards in Tropical Botany

On the Trail of the Calabash Trees: Ethnobotany, Domestication, Evolution, and Geography of Crescentia

Betsabé D. Castro Escobar, a second- year Tropical Botany Scholar, is a
 PhD candidate in the integrative biology program at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research lies at the intersection of ethnobotany, ecology, and evolution. She is passionate about preserving traditional plant knowledge and is fascinated
by the interactions of people and plants in the tropical Americas. She is working with the Crescentieae “tribe” in the botanical family Bignoniaceae and is particularly interested in a group known as the calabash trees (genus Crescentia), which have been important plants for many cultural groups in the Americas—from Mexico to the Amazon to the Caribbean Basin. Tracing evolutionary responses that might be a result of these plant- human relationships could reveal insights about these plants’ evolution as well as their variation, along with furthering our understanding about their phytogeography, domestication, and versatile uses.


Scholarship Opportunities Abound

The Garden Club of America offers 29 merit-based scholarships and fellowships in 12 areas related to conservation, ecology, horticulture, and pollinator research. In 2020, $306,000 was awarded to 64 scholars.Follow GCA Scholarships on Twitter for the latest news about pollinators, coastal wetlands, native bird habitats, and much more. Connect to a larger world of horticulture and conservation through the Garden Club of America scholars. Learn more about the GCA Scholarships. Learn more about the GCA Scholarships.