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GCA Scholarships Recipients


2021 Adam Jacob Eichenwald

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration
School: PhD candidate in Community Ecology & Conservation Biology, Tufts University

Predicting Cascading Extinctions and a Potential for Restoration in the Mojave Desert

Eichenwald’s work, which combines community ecology and conservation biology, investigates how knowledge of species interactions can be applied to environmental management. He will examine whether the decline of the desert tortoise in the Mojave Desert negatively impacts other native species, as the tortoise digs burrows that these other animals can hide in to escape from lethal summer heat. This analysis of how species in this community react to variations in the environment will provide critical information for adaptive management of the ecosystem, particularly as temperatures increase due to climate change.


2021 Sarah M. Klionsky

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration
School: PhD candidate in Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut

Influence of Plant Community Traits and Microtopography on Nitrogen Removal in Restored Wetlands on Former Cranberry Bogs

Klionsky’s research focuses on outcomes of wetland restoration on former agricultural land. She works in retired cranberry bogs, studying abiotic controls on vegetation response and how vegetation and microtopography interact to impact nitrogen dynamics. She aims to understand whether plant community traits can be used to predict denitrification potential and how photogrammetric imaging can help scale results up to larger areas. Her results will inform ongoing wetland restoration planning and design.


2021 Isabel de Silva

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration
School: PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado Boulder

Testing Temporal Insurance Effects and the Role of Niche Complementarity in an Experimental, Hydrologically-variable Invaded Riparian Plant Community

De Silva studies riparian restoration from a plant community and ecophysiological perspective. Her project utilizes an experimental riparian plant community to assess how using non-conventional planting mixes in restoration might promote sustained ecosystem functioning across environmental variability, testing whether variable species responses across environmental conditions help to stabilize the overall function of the system. She also is assessing whether this approach helps ward off invaders by including species with complementary resource-use strategies.


2021 Tracy Youngster

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration
School: PhD Candidate in Ecology and Evolution, Rutgers University

Factors Influencing Native Plant Establishment after Invasive Phragmites australis Removal Using a Novel Herbicide

Youngster’s research focus is plant-soil-microbe interactions in coastal systems. Her current project examines how herbicides used to kill Phragmites australis and other invasives affect soil conditions and subsequent native wetland plant establishment. She will be evaluating how various herbicides affect Phragmites rhizome decomposition, and if soil amendments improve native plant establishment after Phragmites is killed. This research will help guide best practices for restoring native wetland communities after invasive plant removal.


2020 Audrey Bowe

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration

Understanding the Impact of Invasive Jumping Worms on the Threatened American Hart’s- Tongue Fern and Implications for Restoration

Audrey Bowe is a master’s student 
in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University. She
is working with New York State Parks to understand the impact of invasive jumping worms on the federally threatened American hart’s- tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum). She will conduct greenhouse experiments to investigate direct and indirect impacts of jumping worms on fern gametophytes as well as field sampling wild populations to understand the extent of earthworm invasion. The combined results will be used to inform and assess restoration potential for this species in the context of earthworm invasion.

2020 Claire Karban

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration

Using New Technologies to Maximize Plant Recruitment in Large Scale Dryland Restoration

Claire Karban is a PhD candidate in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder. She studies plant recruitment in dryland restoration. Despite the economic importance, high degradation level, and extent of dryland ecosystems globally, seed-based restoration efforts often see very low plant recruitment. Karban will test two restoration methods—seed coatings and microsite creation— to improve plant recruitment in degraded rangelands in southeastern Utah. She plans to evaluate these methods with the ultimate goal of using drones to map microsites and deliver seeds on the large scale at which dryland restoration is needed.

2020 Gabriel Runte

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration

The Influence of Plant-Fungal Symbioses on the Establishment Potential of Pseudotsuga macrocarpa in Fire Scarred Areas

Gabriel Runte is a first-year master’s student in the Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His work focuses on plant-associated microbes and their role in plant establishment and success. In the field, plants are filled with and surrounded by innumerable other organisms which contribute to vital functions, including mineral nutrient acquisition, infection resistance, and drought tolerance. Runte’s
 work aims to improve ecosystem management and restoration by helping to understand and harness these relationships. He focuses primarily on mycorrhizal fungi and foliar fungal endophytes, relating out-planted seedlings to the microbial communities they enter and investigating the microbial aspects of nurse plants.

2020 Emily Tarsa

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration

Mechanisms Driving Seed-Based Wetland Restoration: Harnessing Regeneration Traits and Systems Modeling to Revegetate Great Salt Lake Wetlands

Emily Tarsa is a PhD candidate in ecology at Utah State University. She studies restoration of native 
plant communities in wetland ecosystems, particularly in Great Salt Lake wetlands. She is investigating functional traits that drive seed and seedling life-stage transitions for native and invasive wetland species, and how these traits vary within and between species. Additionally, Tarsa’s project will identify how early functional traits are linked to plant performance under different environmental conditions. Ultimately, her research will be used to develop a systems model that allows for more targeted decision-making when sourcing seeds and restoring native wetland species.

2019 Adrienne Ernst

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration

Adrienne Ernst is a PhD candidate in the Plant Biology and Conservation Department at Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden. She investigates how the diversity sown into a restoration affects the outcomes—focusing on invasion resistance. Standard diversity metrics do not account for species characteristics that may confer invasion resistance. Instead, her research focuses on phylogenetic and functional diversity, metrics which incorporate species identity. Ernst evaluates these metrics as potential ways to increase invasion resistance in restorations by manipulating native species composition.

2019 Rachel Becknell

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration

Rachel Becknell is a PhD candidate in the Evolution, Ecology, and Population Biology Program at Washington University in St. Louis and performs research at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Tyson Research Center. She is interested in the effects of soil microbes, such as mycorrhizal fungi and fungal pathogens, on the ability for rare and endangered plant species to become established in tallgrass prairie and glade restorations. Becknell will use molecular techniques to assess the impacts of soil microbes from remnant prairies and old  elds where tallgrass prairie restorations typically occur on the growth and persistence of four hard-to-establish prairie species.


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.