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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Zeller Summer Scholarship in Medicinal Botany


2018 Tara Neuffer

Tara Neuffer is a senior at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Her focus is on public health, women’s studies, and international development. In connection with her research, Neu er will live in Malawi, assessing the medicinal plants administered to women during pregnancy and labor. She will conduct 90 in-depth interviews with traditional healers, birth attendants, and their clients about the medicinal plants prescribed and then collect samples of each plant discussed. At the University of Malawi she will
aid in testing these specimens for their contractile properties. Neu er hopes that her study, one of the  rst to document plants administered during pregnancy in Malawi, will identify which plant species may be contributing to the country’s high rate of uterine ruptures.

2018 Ezra Houston

Ezra Houston is an undergraduate student at Pennsylvania State University, studying forest ecosystems management. His project is titled “An Analysis of Chemical Compounds in Goldenseal to Determine Factors of their Variance.” Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is a native herbaceous medicinal plant containing three compounds with antibacterial properties. Houston
will analyze the leaves of the plant throughout the summer to determine the relative concentrations of the chemical compounds. Understanding the plant structure will allow for a more sustainable harvest of goldenseal for commercial markets.

2018 Kathryn Bagger

Kathryn Bagger is an undergraduate majoring in human health at Emory University in Atlanta. She is currently receiving training in properly collecting, identifying, and extracting active compounds from medicinal plants native to Georgia. She will be working with the Quave Research Group at Emory to study Native American botanical remedies for wounds and infections. Bagger will participate in extensive book and journal research identifying prospective medicinal plants, after which she will assist in  eldwork
and collection for three weeks at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in Newton, Georgia. For the remaining three months of summer she will work in the lab studying these plants’ active compounds as well as proposing possible applications for them.

2017 Zoe Jeka

Zoe Jeka is a senior in the American Studies program at Tufts University in Massachusetts. She will apprentice with Muddy River Herbals, a medicinal herb business, where organic and sustainable growing practices are used for over 100 medicinal herbs. She will assist with daily fieldwork, including the drying and storing of large quantities of harvested herbs, and help manage an herb CSA, learning how to make tinctures, salves, and lip balms. She will also help organize on-site events to share knowledge about medicinal botany with the community. The apprenticeship will provide crucial knowledge about herbal growth cycles, healing properties, and the transformation of harvest into medicine. Her goal is to become a holistic medicine practitioner.

2016 Amna Jamshad

School: 30062

Amna Jamshad is an undergraduate in the Biology Department with a concentration in neuroscience at University of Georgia. Her research will focus on the evolution of the production of salicylic acid (the active metabolite of Aspirin) across a cross-section of 29 diverse wild willow (Salix) species. At low doses, Aspirin has multiple beneficial health effects and is one of the most widely used medications in the world. She will be analyzing leaf and bark extracts to examine the diversity of secondary compounds in these species. She will also examine the evolution of salicylate production and the biogeographical and environmental factors underlying phytochemical variation among species.

2016 Kimberly D. Giulvezan

Kimberly D. Giulvezan is an undergraduate in the Biology Department with a concentration in Botany at the University of Central Florida. She will travel to the Amazonian regions of Ecuador and Peru where she will work with the Runa Foundation. Her research will focus on ethnobotany, the scientific study of the relationship between people and plants, and medicinal plants, specifically the native (Ilex guayusa) guayusa tea plant sold by many local farmers. 

2016 Brionna James

Brionna James is a senior at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and a minor in Urban and Regional Planning. She will work with a nonprofit organization called Natural Doctors International (NDI) and conduct a field research study to investigate the naturopathic approach to medicine. Her research will require a combination of survey techniques, such as face-to-face interviews, questionnaires, and field research to observe and study the social behavior of local residents to determine whether naturopathic medicine can lead to a more sustainable and competent healthcare system in the rural communities of Ometepe, Nicaragua.

2015 Liam Torrey

Liam Torrey is an undergraduate student at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine, who is focusing on plant ecology and plant chemistry. He is especially interested in how plants express chemicals and whether this expression is impacted by the ecology of where these plants grow. His research project entitled, “Do Differences in Environment Yield Changes in Phytochemical Expression in Melissa officinalis?” will explore the variations in the plant chemistry of lemon balm when it is grown under a number of environmental variables.

Funded by Middletown Garden Club, (CT) Zone II and New Canaan Garden Club, (CT) Zone II

2014 Lauren Walker

Lauren Walker is a junior at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She is working on identifying plant-based chemicals with the potential to benefit human health, with special focus on natural resources utilized by indigenous cultures across the globe. This summer, Lauren is working at The Plants for Human Health Laboratory on a specific skin disorder, hyper-pigmentation, a serious dermatological issue. Lauren's Human Health Lab will be working with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to evaluate six species of seaweed and one tidal terrestrial plant for their potential to inhibit over-accumulation of melanin, which is a precursor of hyper-pigmentation. 

2013 Erica Georgaklis

School: College of the Atlantic
Erica Georgaklis, a junior at the College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME, is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humane Ecology. Her botanical research project, conducted at High Falls Gardens in Philmont, NY, will study four herbs popular in Chinese and Indian medicine. Sowing and growing the herbs, she will compare germination, growth and reproduction rates under different simulated climates to determine the best overall growing conditions and to encourage the production of medically valuable secondary compounds.



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 2018, more than $308,400 was awarded to 65 scholars.

In its inaugural year, the Montine M. Freeman Scholarship in Native Plant Studies was awarded to Angela Merriken and Dr. Uma Venkatesh.

Read more about the new Scholarship and the recipients.