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GCA Scholarships Recipients


2023 Brock Mashburn

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany
School: PhD Candidate in Conservation and Sustainable Development, Washington University in St. Louis and Missouri Botanical Garden

New Perspectives on TransOceanic Dispersal, Guided by a Critically Endangered Group of Tropical Plants: Hibiscus sect. Lilibiscus

Mashburn seeks to understand how Hibiscus sect. Lilibiscus achieved biogeographical distribution. Mashburn’s preliminary work suggests that Madagascar played an important role in the evolutionary history of the clade, and field work will allow sampling from the island. Species’ boundaries will be clarified and phylogenetic relationships among the six Madagascar species will be reconstructed. Data will solidify an understanding of the little-known biogeographic pattern and provide insight into mechanisms of extreme long-distance dispersal around the globe. The project will contribute to the first steps of conserving the six species in Madagascar.

2023 Jeff Stallman

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany
School: PhD candidate in Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University

Biodiversity Discovery and Monitoring of Fungi in Cusuco National Park, Honduras

Stallman’s incidental collection of Helotiales and plot-based sampling of all macroscopic fungi will take place in Cusuco National Park, Honduras. Field research will provide insight on how macrofungal populations change among different elevations, vegetation types, and other environmental correlates. By determining how fungal species richness relates to biotic and abiotic factors, priorities can be made for future conservation and biodiversity discovery studies.


2023 Camille DeSisto

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany
School: PhD candidate in Ecology, Duke University

Consequences of Disturbance on Plant-Lemur Networks in Madagascar

To better understand complex plant-lemur interaction networks critical for restoring a healthy ecosystem in Madagascar’s forest landscapes, DeSisto will conduct botanical research and outreach in COMATSA, a protected area connecting two hyperdiverse national parks. Botanical and lemur surveys, local ecological knowledge, and population and network modeling combined with robust community outreach will promote tropical conservation. Results from building multilayer ethnoecological networks will advance botanical conservation in a highly threatened rainforest landscape that provides critical resources for over 200 tree species, nine lemur species, and numerous human communities.

2023 Ellen Quinlan

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany
School: PhD candidate in Biology, Wake Forest University

Patterns of Diversification and Gene Flow in Andean Prunus

Quinlan seeks to advance understanding of the origin, maintenance, and coexistence of neotropical tree biodiversity and inform conservation by characterizing patterns of diversification, genetic diversity, and gene flow among congeneric Andean trees. Studying Prunus in the Kosñipata Valley within Manu National Park, Peru, will allow Quinlan to characterize the phylogenetic relationships among Prunus species, assess genetic structure among altitudinal populations, and test for gene flow among co-occurring species.

2023 Riley Fortier

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany
School: PhD Candidate in Biology, University of Miami

Longitudinal Study to Test for the Acclimation of Individual Trees to Multiple Decades of Climate Change 

Fortier will leverage long-term plot data and associated herbarium specimens to investigate how individual tropical trees in the Peruvian Amazon have acclimated to climate change over the last 40-plus years. Changes in functional traits of individual plants over multiple years will be examined. Fortier’s research will help predict future changes in Amazon tree composition and may target species in greater need of conservation initiatives.


2022 Giovanna Figueroa

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany

Phylogeographic Study of the Economically Important Palm Tree Oenocarpus bataua in Northwestern Amazonia

Figueroa’s research will focus on the ecology and evolution of the widespread Amazonian palm, Oenocarpus bataua. Figueroa will combine field work with statistical phylogenetic methods and food-chemistry analysis to understand the degree of variation in the palm and the role that humans have played in the palm’s evolution.

2022 Adam Chmurzynski

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany

Can Branch Architecture from Laser Scans Predict Tree Growth Rates in Neotropical Dry Forests?

Using a collection of twigs from tropical dry-forest species, Chmurzynski will analyze models of tree growth and validate laser scanning methods. Chmurzynski will use remote-sensing data to test fundamental ecological theories at the interface of plant ecology and global change. In addition, Chmurzynski will apply 3D laser scanning technology to quantify the geometry of tree branches as well as wholeplant form and function. Findings will provide models of tree growth to better predict changes in forested landscapes over time.

2022 Nora Gavin Smyth

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany

The Diversity and Evolution of Impatiens in the Eastern Arc Mountains

Using field botany, herbarium research, and genomics to explore the diversity of Impatiens in Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains, Gavin-Smyth’s research will investigate how 40-plus Impatiens species came to be endemic to the area. Gavin-Smyth will apply both phylogenomics and population genomics to understand their evolution and conservation outlook and will trace the origins of Eastern Arc impatiens. In tandem with the genomics research, Gavin-Smyth will revise Impatiens taxonomy as needed and will refine conservation assessments for these rare species.

2022 Julia Gardner Harenčár

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany

Combining Ecology and Genetics to Understand Species Boundaries in Neotropical Gingers

Harenčár works at the confluence of traditional ecology and cutting-edge genetics to understand plant evolution. Harenčár believes that understanding interactions between selection pressures, gene flow, and the genetic basis of ecological differences is critical to predicting how environmental change might impact species boundaries. Integrating ecology and genetics to understand the impact of hybridization on species, Harenčár’s research will explain the role of hybridization and selection on species maintenance in a pair of neotropical spiral gingers.

2022 Evan Glen Hockridge

The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Tropical Botany

Islands in the Forest: Spatiotemporal Patterns of Ecosystem Structure, Composition, and Function in Central African Forest Clearings​ 

Hockridge’s research in the Congo Basin seeks to understand the forest structure and biodiversity influences of baïs, unique nutrient-rich forest clearings that concentrate activity of large animal species and provide habitat to flora that could not survive in the rest of the forest landscape. Using remote sensing, soil nutrient analyses, camera traps, and other traditional fieldmethod tools, Hockridge will examine what factors contribute to the creation, maintenance, and vegetative diversity in and around Central Africa’s baïs.

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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 2023, over $405,000 were awarded to 86 scholars. Follow GCA Scholarships on Instagram for the latest news about pollinators, coastal wetlands, native bird habitats, and much more. Connect to a larger world of horticulture and conservation through Garden Club of America scholars. Browse the scholarship offerings.

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