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GCA Scholarships Recipients


2021 Bing Li

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture
School: Master’s Student, Plant Biology and Conservation Program, Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden

Using Genetic Data to Conserve a Rare Plant Species, Oenothera organensis, in New Mexico 

Li’s study focuses on the effects of cultivation and conservation practices on the genetics and floral traits of a rare evening primrose species, Oenothera organensis. She hopes to develop a conservation strategy for this species.


2021 Ryan O'Connell

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture
School: PhD candidate in Ecology, Duke University

Measuring the Population Response of the Mountain Golden Heather (Hudsonia montana) to Multiple Forms of Environmental Stress

O’Connell’s research centers around the ways in which populations respond to multiple sources of environmental stress, with a particular emphasis on human-related impacts. For his dissertation project, he is using mountain golden heather (Hudsonia montana) as a focal species in a series of field and greenhouse experiments aimed at understanding the threats facing this rare North Carolina endemic plant. This work will guide future restoration efforts for mountain golden heather and, if those efforts prove successful, could be applied to other threatened species.


2020 Michelle DePrenger-Levin

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Flexible Seed Harvest Limits for ex-situ Seed Conservation of Rare Plants 

Michelle DePrenger-Levin is a PhD candidate in integrative and systems biology at the University of Colorado Denver. She is interested in spatial and population trend modeling for rare plant conservation and will 
use population viability models to project the extinction risk of rare plants. DePrenger-Levin’s work examines incorporating climate change with variable seed harvest rates and intensities to understand how responses to these perturbations will vary by life history traits. Her goal is to provide practical guidance on maximizing seed collections that minimize extinction risk across rare species traits.

2020 Michael Kunz

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Population Ecology of Astragalus michauxii, a Rare Southeastern US Endemic Species

Michael Kunz is a Ph.D. candidate in the Environment, Ecology, and Energy Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and
 the Conservation Ecologist at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. His research focuses on the ecological factors, such as pollination, herbivory, fire, and precipitation, that influence changes in populations of the rare sandhills milkvetch (Astragalus michauxii). Kunz’s work also examines how changing climate will affect the distribution of sandhills milkvetch populations in the future. This research will help build an understanding of how the changing environment affects rare species and guide future reintroduction and conservation efforts.

2019 Rachel Lyman

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Rachel Lyman is a PhD candidate in the Evolution, Ecology, and Population Biology Program at Washington University in St. Louis in conjunction with the Missouri Botanical Garden. Through genetic research and biogeographic analyses, she will assess the genetic diversity in native and reintroduced populations and determine biogeographic forces that gave rise to the endangered endemic Trifolium calcaricum. This study will provide important insights for management and conservation.

2019 Gavin Shotts

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Gavin Shotts is a master’s student in biology at Auburn University. His studies focus on how pollination ecology can inform conservation of rare and threatened southeastern  ora. His project investigates breeding traits and mating systems critical to maintaining genetic diversity in both threatened Spigelia species. His research will directly inform seed collections for ex situ conservation of Spigelia through plant propagation and future outplantings. This project will also provide new avenues to integrate pollination ecology into plant conservation efforts throughout the Southeast.

2018 Rachel E. Becknell

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Rachel E. Becknell is a PhD candidate in the Evolution, Ecology, and Population Biology program at Washington University
in St. Louis in a liation with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the university’s Tyson Research Center. Her project is titled “The Effects of Soil Microbes on the Growth and Survival of Endangered Astragalus bibullatus.” Her dissertation focuses on the e ects of soil microbes, such as mycorrhizal fungi and fungal pathogens, on community dynamics in tallgrass prairie restorations and
in the reintroduction of the federally endangered glade plant species Astragalus bibullatus. This species is currently known to exist in only eight populations in central Tennessee. Becknell will examine whether it possesses species-specific microbes necessary for its successful long-term reintroduction.

2018 Patrick A. Smallwood

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Patrick A. Smallwood is a PhD candidate in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Georgia. His research is focused on the interactions between orchids and their mycorrhizal fungal partners. Specifically, he is interested in how the identity of the fungus may change across orchid populations as the needs of the orchid change. He intends to use molecular techniques to understand how orchid mycorrhizal communities associated with the yellow lady’s slipper orchid change across eastern North America. He hopes that the results of his work will help inform native orchid conservation.

2017 Jordan T. Wood

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Jordan T. Wood is a master’s student in the Program in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden, where he studies conservation biology, population genetics, and living collections management. He will research threatened North American oak species to characterize and compare the genetic diversity of wild populations and living collections held in botanic gardens. The resulting genetic data may be used by botanic gardens to increase their capacity to meet conservation goals of threatened plants.

2017 Yasmin A. Khan

The Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture

Yasmin A. Khan is a master’s student in biology at Halmos College of Natural Science and Oceanography at Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her project is titled “A Comparative Metagenomic Study of the Microbiome of an Endangered Florida Lupine Species (Lupinus aridorum).” Her research will compare the soil, root nodule, and flower microbiomes of the endangered L. aridorum species to the commonly found species L. diffuses. She aims to provide significant insight into the complex dynamics that contribute to the species’ growth and development. Her project serves as a contribution to the plant conservation initiative at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida.


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.