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GCA Scholarships Recipients


2021 Iris J Garthwaite

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies
School: Master’s Student, Environmental Sciences & Policy Program and The Center for Adaptable Western Landscapes, Northern Arizona University

Using a Geographic Mosaic of Climate Variation to Assess Genetic vs. Environmental Sources of Variation in Populus fremontii Leaf Venation

Garthwaite studies climate change effects on Fremont Cottonwoods, to conserve this iconic foundation tree species. Combining advanced histology and innovative image analysis methods, she uses the Southwest Experimental Garden Array and digital herbarium specimens to understand the relationship between climate and Fremont Cottonwoods across spatial and temporal scales.  Her goal is to communicate her findings to conservation practitioners to advance climate-related adaptive management strategies for Southwestern riparian corridors.


2021 Michael David Mohr

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies
School: Master’s Student, Landscape Architecture, Arizona State University

Desert Botanical Garden, Summer 2021

Mohr will research varied topics during the summer at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.  He will rotate among their multiple departments, including collections and planting design, pest management, and rare species management and research.


2020 Lauren Baldarelli

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

Research into Biological Soil Crusts (Biocrusts)

Lauren Baldarelli is a Ph.D. candidate at Kent State University majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. Her research focus is on biocrusts of the American Southwest. Biocrusts interest her as important organisms in arid landscapes that contribute significantly to ecosystem services. Baldarelli’s current research involves understanding how soil type, nutrient availability, and elevation affect the abundance and composition of biocrusts. She will investigate this by estimating biocrust cover and measuring enzymatic activity along a 2,000-meter elevational gradient between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona.

2019 William Hartman

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

William Hartman is a junior at Oregon State University majoring in horticulture. Building on his background as a full-time firefighter and his research at Denver Botanic Gardens, Hartman will enhance his understanding of desert plant species, particularly those that are re resistant. For his project, he will design a Firewise® demonstration garden utilizing sustainable native plant species with a thoughtful design to combat the growing threat of wild res in Colorado.

2019 Lauren Reeves

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

Lauren Reeves is a third-year landscape architecture student at Arizona State University. Working at the Desert Botanical Garden, she will research desert plants to gain understanding of their use in sustainable landscape design. This knowledge will advance her studies on Low Impact Development strategies in the arid environment. She will also use Geographic Information Systems to enhance the Desert Botanical Garden’s tree inventory and gain valuable horticultural knowledge about function and care of trees in the desert landscape.

2018 Garrett Langefels

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

Garrett Langefels is a sophomore majoring in landscape architecture at Arizona State University. While interning at the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, he will advance his knowledge of desert plants and their use in landscape design. He will also focus on sustainability in desert regions and on new strategies for protecting native bird habitats from the constant threat of human development. Hoping to make Moeur Park in Tempe more hospitable for roadrunners, for example, Langefels is working on an exhibition at the park to emphasize the importance of conserving the dwindling natural desert within the Phoenix metropolitan area.

2018 Heather Bendingtree

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

Heather Bendingtree is a student in environmental horticulture at Santa Barbara City College and an ongoing intern at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, where among other duties she is an instructional aide for a series of classes offered by entomologist Frédérique Lavoipierre.  This year she is contributing to Lavoipierre’s Garden Allies program, undertaking research on the relationship between speci c California drought-adapted plants and bene cial insects.  e public education arm of the program is to teach the ability of these plants to attract and provide habitat for bene cial insects as a key element in conservation biological control.

2017 John Miller

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

John Miller is a sophomore studying sustainable horticulture and business at Arizona State University in Phoenix. As an intern at the Desert Botanical Garden, he will develop his knowledge about desert plants, their use in different landscapes, and arid environments. He will learn about rainwater harvesting and its essential benefits in arid landscapes.

2017 Cole Larson-Whittaker

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

Cole Larson-Whittaker is a master’s student in plant biology and conservation at Arizona State University in Phoenix. He will collaborate with the Desert Botanical Garden to determine the genetic origins of Agave murpheyi, one of the major agricultural crops of the pre-Columbian Southwest. His research will use spatial models, state-of-the-art genetic analysis, and fieldwork to reanalyze A. angustifolia, taxonomically and molecularly, so that the genetic connection between the newly reclassified A. angustifolia and A. murpheyi can be tested to expand the phylogenetic understanding of the genus Agave.

2017 Dominic M. Gentilcore

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

Dominic M. Gentilcore is a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He studies in the Soil-Plant-Water Stress Interactions Lab under the direction of Dr. Scott Abella. His project is a floristic inventory of the newly designated Gold Butte National Monument (GOBU) in Clark County, Nevada. GOBU is a triple transition zone between the Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Colorado Plateau. He will produce a comprehensive checklist of all vascular plants within GOBU as well as establish a set of ecological plot maps for the area to allow better protections for rare plant habitats.


Scholarship Opportunities Abound

The Garden Club of America offers 28 merit-based scholarships and fellowships in 12 areas related to conservation, ecology, horticulture, and pollinator research. In 2021, over $300,000 were awarded to 61 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. Browse the scholarship offerings.