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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Zeller Summer Scholarship in Medicinal Botany


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.

2012 Meghan Henshaw

School: Bastyr University
Is a junior at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. This summer she will study herbal medicine in Italy, identifying plants and integrating an understanding of their medicinal applications. Her goal is to cultivate medicinal plants for use in a medical practice.
Project location: Italy

2012 Sarah McCracken

School: College of the Atlantic
Is a junior at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. She will apprentice at Healing Spirits Herb Farm and Education Center in Avoca, New York, where she will learn to make tinctures, salves, flower essences and teas and how to maintain established ecosystems

2011 Joseph Layden

School: College of the Atlantic
His project will research the medicinal ethno botany of the Algonquin peoples and record the results into an accessible and comprehensive handbook.



Scholarship Opportunities Abound

The GCA offers 28 merit-based scholarships and fellowships, awarding more than $330,000 to 86 scholars in 2017.

For example, the GCA Fellowship in Ecological Restoration offers an $8,000 annual grant for graduate study and research at a leading accredited university in the United States. Fields of study of past recipients have ranged from forestry to applied plant sciences to ecology and evolutionary biology.

Read more about the four 2017 recipients.