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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Caroline Thorn Kissel Summer Environmental Studies Scholarship


2018 Natalie Kashi

Natalie Kashi is a doctoral candidate in the Natural Resources & Earth Systems Science PhD Program at the University of New Hampshire. She studies peatland development in response to permafrost thaw and, speci cally, how nutrients released from permafrost thaw impact microbes that produce and consume methane, an important greenhouse gas.  This research has important implications for managing greenhouse emissions in the restoration of wetlands.

2017 Tyler Coverdale

Tyler Coverdale is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. His project is titled “Plant Defenses in African Savannas: Does Herbivory Drive Epigenetic Variation?” He studies African savanna plant defenses at Mpala Research Center and Wildlife Foundation in Laikipia, Kenya, witha focus on how interactions between plants shape plant defense strategies. He will use a combination of field experiments and genetic analysis to investigate how the proximity of well defended neighbors, which shelter palatable plants from large savanna herbivores (e.g., elephants, zebra, impala), impacts the defensive strategy and epigenetic signature of a common savanna shrub.

2017 Tony Cullen

Tony Cullen is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University in New Jersey. His project is titled “The Great Garden Escape: the Role of Evolution in the Invasion for Two Ornamental Viburnums.” His research
explores how small populations of non-native shrubs become larger naturalized populations. He uses a landscape genetics study to determine how environmental and geographic features influence gene flow and local adaptation. Gaining insight into the potential rapid microevolutionary change in invasive species will allow ecologists to understand the factors involved in colonization and spread. This knowledge will help land managers make more informed decisions about management strategies and restoration practices.

2016 Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti is a PhD candidate in the Biological Oceanography program at Rutgers University, NJ. Her research will focus on assessing how the urbanization (human development) of the watershed surrounding Barnegat Bay, NJ, impacts the fishes living in the bay. She will test for the possibility of a pollution signature in summer flounder otoliths (ear stones) and compare fish communities in natural creeks versus fish communities in creeks with bulkheading to determine if there are differences between fish communities in those two habitats.

2016 Molly Bindell

Molly Bindell is a PhD candidate in the Ecology and Evolution and the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology at Rutgers University, NJ. She studies arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), an important group of plant root-inhabiting, microbial symbionts, associated with switchgrass in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and beyond. Her project will investigate a novel metagenomic approach to studying AMF using Illumina next-generation sequencing technology to uncover the diversity of these ecologically and potentially economically important fungi in varying environments.

2015 Colleen Smith

Colleen Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University. She will study the effects of deer herbivory of flowering plants on pollinator communities in a deciduous forest in New Jersey. Populations of white-tailed deer in the eastern United States have drastically increased in size over the last century, devastating forest understories, including the flowering plants that pollinators rely on for food. Colleen will sample plant-pollinator communities along a deer density gradient to better understand which pollinator species are most at risk.

2015 Nicholas Henshue

Nicholas Henshue is a third-year doctoral candidate at Rutgers University, New Jersey. His field is Ecology and Evolution and he will be studying how different earthworm species can possibly be used to clean up polluted industrial sites. He theorizes that five of the most common types of worms to the northern United States have the ability to change soil composition enough for plants to grow. Preliminary research suggests that while the pollution will still be in the soil, it could become modified chemically to pose less harm to the animals and plants in the ecosystem after being consumed by either the earthworms or the literally thousands of microorganisms they bring along with them. 

2015 Natalie Howe

Natalie Howe is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, New Jersey, where she is studying how lichens change soil chemistry and biology in the New Jersey Pinelands. She is investigating whether soil lichens can help prevent establishment of Teesdalia nudicaulis, an invasive mustard plant that can weaken other plants’ associations with mycorrhizal fungi (root-associated fungi that help plants get water and nutrients. 

2014 Diane Hagmann

Diane Hagmann of Westfield, NJ, is an M.S. candidate in Environmental Science at Monclair State University with plans for a Ph.D. in this field. At Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ, her project will be a case study of three extracellular enzymes present in heavy metal contaminated urban soil. Metal contamination has ben shown to have imporant effects on microbial populations and their activity in the soil. 

2014 William Bauer

William Bauer of Neptune, NJ, is enrolled at McGill University with a double major in economics and environmental science. His passion has been to conserve, protect and beautify the Hackensack River. Through the Hackensack River Clean Up and Planting Program, he will continue the clean up providing the Bergen County public with a beautiful "green pathway," demonstrating the impact one student can have on the environment. 



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.