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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies


2018 Garrett Langefels

Garrett Langefels is a sophomore majoring in landscape architecture at Arizona State University. While interning at the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, he will advance his knowledge of desert plants and their use in landscape design. He will also focus on sustainability in desert regions and on new strategies for protecting native bird habitats from the constant threat of human development. Hoping to make Moeur Park in Tempe more hospitable for roadrunners, for example, Langefels is working on an exhibition at the park to emphasize the importance of conserving the dwindling natural desert within the Phoenix metropolitan area.

2018 Heather Bendingtree

Heather Bendingtree is a student in environmental horticulture at Santa Barbara City College and an ongoing intern at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, where among other duties she is an instructional aide for a series of classes offered by entomologist Frédérique Lavoipierre.  This year she is contributing to Lavoipierre’s Garden Allies program, undertaking research on the relationship between speci c California drought-adapted plants and bene cial insects.  e public education arm of the program is to teach the ability of these plants to attract and provide habitat for bene cial insects as a key element in conservation biological control.

2017 John Miller

John Miller is a sophomore studying sustainable horticulture and business at Arizona State University in Phoenix. As an intern at the Desert Botanical Garden, he will develop his knowledge about desert plants, their use in different landscapes, and arid environments. He will learn about rainwater harvesting and its essential benefits in arid landscapes.

2017 Cole Larson-Whittaker

Cole Larson-Whittaker is a master’s student in plant biology and conservation at Arizona State University in Phoenix. He will collaborate with the Desert Botanical Garden to determine the genetic origins of Agave murpheyi, one of the major agricultural crops of the pre-Columbian Southwest. His research will use spatial models, state-of-the-art genetic analysis, and fieldwork to reanalyze A. angustifolia, taxonomically and molecularly, so that the genetic connection between the newly reclassified A. angustifolia and A. murpheyi can be tested to expand the phylogenetic understanding of the genus Agave.

2017 Dominic M. Gentilcore

Dominic M. Gentilcore is a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He studies in the Soil-Plant-Water Stress Interactions Lab under the direction of Dr. Scott Abella. His project is a floristic inventory of the newly designated Gold Butte National Monument (GOBU) in Clark County, Nevada. GOBU is a triple transition zone between the Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Colorado Plateau. He will produce a comprehensive checklist of all vascular plants within GOBU as well as establish a set of ecological plot maps for the area to allow better protections for rare plant habitats.

2016 Tom Bulinski

Tom Bulinski is a horticulture student at Mesa Community College in Arizona, studying landscape design along with greenhouse and nursery operations. He will work to restore the xeriscape demonstration garden on campus. The xeriscape garden is a section of campus that displays native and other desert-adapted plant selections that promote the wise use of water.  Additional plant material and signage will create a better learning experience for the numerous classes that use this area as a learning lab.

2016 Ava Cheng

Ava Cheng is a student at Santa Barbara City College and working with the Garden Allies Program at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The Garden Allies Program is a research and education outreach program concerning the positive relationship between pest-eating insects in the garden and native California plants through field and literature study. As arid environments like California become drier, there is greater need to grow native plants that are adapted to less water intake. Through outreach and education with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, she helps to educate others to recognize the “good” bugs from the “bad.” This research aims to reduce use of pesticides, lower the amount of work and maintenance required of a garden, and increase edges as well as species corridors.

2016 Tucker Hancock

Tucker Hancock is a candidate for a Master’s of Landscape Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver and an intern with the Denver Botanic Gardens. He will study desert plants with application in the designed arid landscape. He will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to collect species of fameflower (Phemeranthus). He will map and model the environmental conditions in which particular species occur, and develop strategies for the cultivation of those plants in gardens, on buildings, and in compromised urban spaces.

2015 Alexandra Stoicof

Alexandra Stoicof is a first year Master of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Arizona. She is interested in regional landscape architecture for the arid West, and specifically, sustainable management of water resources through creative design. Alexandra’s project at the Tucson Botanical Garden will involve water harvesting interpretation and advocacy, in addition to garden mapping and directional way finding.

2015 Molly Freund

Molly Freund is currently a junior at Arizona State University pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture while minoring in Sustainability and Urban Planning. Molly’s interests include the unique ecology and native flora of the Sonoran Desert. While interning at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, she will gain valuable horticultural knowledge and practical experience working closely with arid landscape plants.

Funded by Nancy Swanson, Columbine Garden Club, (AZ) Zone XII



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.