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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Garden Club of America Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry


2018 Kaitlyn Pike

Kaitlyn Pike completed her BA in environmental studies at DePaul University, where she is now working toward an MS in sustainable management. In collaboration with the city forester of Highland Park, Illinois, her research will analyze the conditions of preserved private trees on properties undergoing construction.  These trees, classified as heritage trees by the city, are protected under ordinances before, during, and after construction.  The aim of this research is to develop a better understanding of how redevelopment impacts trees by species and how both municipalities and homeowners can more effectively protect their urban forests.

2018 Amy M. Blood

Amy M. Blood is a PhD candidate studying urban forestry in the Geospatial and Environmental Analysis Graduate Program at Virginia Tech. She repurposes underutilized datasets to address large-scale urban forestry challenges. She will be combining ground based measurements and geospatial data from multiple cities to develop a classification of different forms, structures, and con gurations (a “typology”) of the landscape types present in urban forests. She will develop a classification system for these types and qualitatively assess their unique ecohydrological characteristics. Understanding where these landscape types occur in urban environments may improve stormwater management and related tree planting and conservation policies.

2018 Danica Doroski

Danica Doroski is a PhD candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Her project uses data from recent tree plantings in cities across the US to evaluate tree diversity on a regional and national scale. While tree planting efforts have increased in recent years, information on them is often siloed by municipalities, making it challenging to identify national trends or make city-by-city comparisons. By working with municipalities and nonprofits, this project will help consolidate and synthesize data to illuminate patterns in species composition that can inform future tree planting projects and improve such programs nationwide.

2017 Benjamin Breger

Benjamin Breger is a master’s student in landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. His project is titled “Tree Survival in the Urban Landscape: Nursery Treatment, Site Conditions, and Stewardship.” Interested in the functionality and aesthetics of urban vegetation, he will examine the socio-ecological factors that impact the survival of urban trees such as nursery treatment, site conditions, and level of human stewardship. His field study will take place in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where thousands of trees have been planted over the past three years as part of a statewide urban greening initiative. Providing more accurate and localized data on urban tree survival will allow forestry professionals to better plan greening initiatives and assess the benefits of large scale urban tree planting campaigns.

2017 Nancy Falxa Sonti

Nancy Falxa Sonti is a PhD candidate in the Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland in College Park. Her project is titled “Socio-Cultural Ecosystem Services of Urban Forests.” She will conduct interviews with Baltimore residents to compare the perception and use of forest patches on vacant land with those of city parkland in neighborhoods with varying levels of income. Her research will assess qualitatively whether these factors affect the socio-cultural ecosystem services of Baltimore’s urban forests and the degree to which these urban green spaces are viewed by nearby residents as amenities or disamenities.

2017 David Bañuelas

David Bañuelas is a master’s student at the Center for Regenerative Studies at California Polytechnic University in Pomona. In 2016 he started the Southern California Allelopathic Flora for Eradication (SAFE) project to study allelopathic trees that occur in the urban forests of Los Angeles. Allelopathic plants emit phytotoxins that inhibit the growth of weedy plant species. His research will test how mulch from various trees can reduce the growth of invasive plant species to aid in habitat restoration. The results of his research may encourage the development of allelopathic-based pesticides and further our understanding of weedy species that are susceptible to allelopathy.

2017 John Roberts

John Roberts is a PhD candidate in environmental horticulture at the University of Florida in Gainesville. His project is titled “Semi-automatic Street Tree Inventory and Assessment from Mobile Terrestrial Remote Sensing.” As laser scanning and photogrammetric data become more common, these datasets have been applied to monitoring urban forests. Using data collected from groundbased and unmanned aerial vehicles, Roberts creates three-dimensional models of urban streetscapes. These models are being tested for semiautomatic mapping and measurement of street trees, potentially leading to partial updates to existing urban tree inventories. Techniques to detect structural stem defects (i.e., lean status, low taper, etc.) from these datasets are also being developed.

2016 Carly Ziter

Carly Ziter is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Using a custom-built mobile temperature sensor, urban tree data, and high-resolution images, she is studying which features of the urban forest best control temperature in Madison, WI. Do only large forested areas cool off the city, or can street trees fill this role, too? How much added benefit do trees give compared to grass, or other plants? She will determine whether the consequences of the city’s parking lots can be balanced by increasing the benefits of its parks. Her research will inform urban forest management to offset the negative economic, health, and lifestyle consequences of warming cities.

Funded by Casey Trees, Washington, DC, Zone VI

2016 Christopher B. Riley

Christopher B. Riley is a PhD candidate in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University. His project is titled,  “Just how Valuable are Exotic Trees?” He will examine the arthropod conservation value of the urban forest found across Cleveland’s network of more than 20,000 vacant lots spanning over 3,300 acres. Using a variety of arboreal sampling methods, he will assess variation in arthropod herbivore and predator diversity and abundance across the most common native and exotic tree species in order to better understand their ecological role within the broader urban ecosystem. His research will inform natural resource managers and city planners of the value of this largely ignored form of green space.

2016 Lauren Burns

Lauren Burns is pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from the School of the Environment at Washington State University, Vancouver. As part of the Hydrology, Ecohydrology, and Landscape Dynamics Lab, her research will investigate the ecosystem benefits of Portland, Oregon’s urban street tree community. She will assess the ability of deciduous and evergreen trees to mitigate urban heating of air as well as storm water runoff. This study will promote urban cooling and the protection of sensitive aquatic organisms.



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.