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GCA Scholarships Recipients


2021 Sylvi Oh

The Joan K. Hunt and Rachel M. Hunt Summer Scholarship in Field Botany
School: Master’s Student, Plant Biology, Ohio University

Bird-mediated Seed Dispersal of Forest Herbs in a Temperate Deciduous Forest

Oh studies the seed dispersal of herbaceous plants in post-agricultural, temperate deciduous forests to understand the population dynamics of forest herbs. Forest herbs are limited by dispersal since they largely lack seed banks, but these dispersal networks are understudied and under threat due to human land use. Since birds are likely dispersers of forest herbs in these systems,  she is studying the interactions between native forest herbs and migratory birds passing through southeast Ohio.


2021 Ryan James Schmidt

The Joan K. Hunt and Rachel M. Hunt Summer Scholarship in Field Botany
School: Undergraduate, Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources Program, Rutgers University

Rediscovering the “Weeds” of New Jersey: Understanding the Distribution of Weedy and Nonnative Species in New Jersey through Specimen Collection

In his research, Schmidt aims to gain insights into the current and past distributions of the “weedy” and non-native plants of New Jersey through the use of recent and historical herbarium records. He will collect new herbarium specimens of many of these under-collected species, present throughout the state of New Jersey along the urban-to-rural gradient, in order to better understand the current impact of these plants and how their distribution has changed over time.


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.

2019 Noah Yawn

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

Noah Yawn is a freshman at Auburn University, studying organismal biology with a focus in conservation and biodiversity. At the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) this summer, he will be censusing all known populations of the critically endangered Alabama canebrake pitcher plant (Sarracenia alabamensis), analyzing their  oral communities, soil analytes, site quality, and conservation priority. Also, Yawn will perform tissue-culture samples on site lineages where canebrake pitcher plants cannot sexually reproduce for genetic safeguarding at the ABG. The resulting datasets from this updated survey will be used to better characterize the species occurrence, locate potential habitat for augmentation, and aid in the conservation strategy of this endangered species.

2019 Thomas Chapin

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

Thomas Chapin is a senior studying geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland. He will be conducting research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center where he will attempt to sequence, isolate, and culture endobacteria (family Burkholderiaceae) from orchid mycorrhizal fungi, collecting root samples from the  eld for initial isolation and culture. This will aid in efforts to reintroduce endobacteria (which dies out over time) to the Smithsonian’s entire collection of orchid mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi, containing healthy endobacteria, is essential for the germination of many North American orchids.

2018 Anthony Logan Ferrero

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

Anthony Logan Ferrero is a second-year microbiology major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. This summer he will be studying the mechanism and adaptive significance of nickel hyperaccumulation in Streptanthus polygaloides, a serpentine species endemic to the western Sierra Nevada foothills. He will perform field collections of S. polygaloides (milkwort jewelflower) in its native range, as well as conduct a garden study examining factors affecting nickel hyperaccumulation
in this species, including drought stress and microbial diversity. Results may have implications for the use of hyperaccumulators in phytoremediation, which employs living green plants for decontamination.

2018 Jasen Liu

The Joan K. Hunt and Rachel M. Hunt Summer Scholarship in Field Botany
Jasen Liu is a junior studying biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His project is titled “Ecological Roles of Floral Pigment Variation over Ontogeny.”  is  eld season he will be investigating how pollinator behavior is a ected by changes in petal pigment of elegant Clarkia unguiculata, a California wild ower, as its  owers progress from functionally male to functionally female.  The results of this project will be valuable for deeper understanding of the intricate mechanisms that plants utilize to communicate with their pollinators and ensure successful reproduction.

Funded by Friends and Colleagues of Nishi Rajakaruna

2017 Mary Elizabeth Patterson

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

Mary Elizabeth Patterson is a master’s student in plant biology and conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her project is titled “Monitoring Protocol for Packeria layneae: a Federally Threatened Species.” Her fieldwork will focus on developing a long-term monitoring protocol for Packeria layneae, also known as Layne’s ragwort or Layne’s butterweed, a threatened species endemic to California. Creating a monitoring protocol is the first step to stabilizing threatened and endangered species populations. Tahoe National Forest botanists and other managers of P. layneae will use the protocol to monitor the species’ long-term demographics.
Funded by Friends of Nishi Rajakaruna in honor of Nishanta Rajakaruna


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.