Members Area

GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Garden Club of America Board of Associates Centennial Pollinator Fellowship


2018 Kristen M. Lear

Kristen M. Lear is a PhD candidate in integrative conservation at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Her project, “Assessing and Developing Critical Foraging Habitat for an Endangered Pollinating Bat,” focuses on conservation of the Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis), a key pollinator in US and Mexican ecosystems. Lear will use
an interdisciplinary approach that combines the natural and social sciences to investigate the bats’ foraging ecology and understand how to develop and implement programs that restore critical foraging habitat in northeastern Mexico. Her research will directly inform on-the-ground conservation efforts for the species.

2018 Pamela Blackmore

Pamela Blackmore is a master’s student in landscape architecture at Kansas State University. Her project, “Butterflies, Tallgrass Prairie, and Green Roofs,” evaluates the butterfly communities of two urban green roofs planted with native prairie vegetation compared to nearby urban native prairie and protected tallgrass prairie sites. Since urbanization is a driver of habitat loss, it is essential to understand how habitat for pollinator communities in cities can be improved. One potential solution is to use green roofs and other green infrastructure to make cities more hospitable to pollinators.

2018 Kristen Birdshire

Kristen Birdshire is an environmental sciences master’s student at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research, titled “Influences on Wild Bee Richness and Abundance Along an Urban-Rural Gradient,” focuses on native and exotic bees in a dry montane climate.  e study seeks not only to de ne these population metrics along the slope, but also to determine each bee species’ physiological and ecological characteristics in terms of its ability to promote or undermine survival in the urban landscape. Ultimately Birdshire’s research will identify ways to enhance bee populations and pollination in Denver’s city center.

2017 Michelle L. Fearon

Michelle L. Fearon is a PhD candidate in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Michigan. Her project is titled “Tracking Virus Strains Spillover: Pollinator Community Interaction Networks Impact Honeybee and Native Bee Virus Prevalence and Viral Load.” Her research will focus on tracking pathogen transmission in a network of interactions between honeybee and native bee species in different pollinator communities. This research will incorporate realistic community interactions into the study of bee pathogens to broaden the understanding of how pollinator species are infected and how different pathogens are transmitted between pollinator species in a community.

2017 Kelsey E. Fisher

Kelsey E. Fisher is a PhD candidate in the Entomology Department at Iowa State University. Her project, “Tracking Monarch Butterflies Through the Iowa Landscape Utilizing an Automated Radio Telemetry System,” researches how monarch butterflies are utilizing the fragmented landscape to support the establishment of biological guidelines for habitat restoration. In order for monarchs to utilize small gardens and newly planted habitat, they must be able to detect their presence. She will track monarchs with active radio telemetry technology to understand their perception of distance and navigational patterns. This will help determine how far apart habitat patches should be planted to increase overall connectivity and provide essential resources. Results from the study will inform conservation and restoration efforts.

2017 Jonathan Giacomini

Jonathan Giacomini is a PhD candidate in the Zoology Program at North Carolina State University. His project is titled “Can Helianthus Heal Bees? Management of Bumblebee Parasites with Sunflower Pollen Supplements.” His research investigates the role of floral resources in shaping the ecology and evolution of pollinator diseases. Pollen plays an important role in bee health
by providing essential nutrients, but varies tremendously in chemical content between plant species. His preliminary lab results suggest that certain pollen species may have disproportional effects on bee diseases. His field study will examine the impact of medicinal floral resources on the management of bee parasites using techniques that can be adapted for conservation and management.

2017 Rachael E. Bonoan

Rachael E. Bonoan is a PhD candidate at Tufts University in Massachusetts, and is president of the Boston Area Beekeepers Association. Her project is titled “The Effect of Dietary Essential Amino Acids on Immunocompetence in Immune-Challenged Honeybees.” She studies pollinator nutrition and is particularly interested in how honeybees get the right nutrients in the right amounts from their everchanging environment. This summer she will investigate how dietary protein diversity affects honeybee immunity. In addition to her studies, she enjoys sharing her research and the importance of pollinator health with beekeepers, garden clubs, and the general public.

2016 Hamutahl Cohen

Hamutahl Cohen is a PhD candidate at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research examines the potential of urban agriculture to foster pollinator health and diversity. She studies how gardening and urbanization influence the spread of diseases in bees, and how planting flowers can inoculate bees with beneficial gut bacteria, supporting the bee microbiome. Her research in 18 urban gardens is complemented by workshops for gardeners on pollinator conservation and garden education initiatives with high school and college students.

2016 Michael L. Smith

Michael L. Smith is a PhD candidate at Cornell University studying honeybee colony development. His research will test two hypotheses of how worker bees assess colony size-comb vibration and chemical compounds. His study will determine how these clues change with colony size and then manipulate the clues to test whether and how the bees use them. This study aims to identify the metrics the bees use to determine their own colony development. Understanding how bees detect their own colony’s development will enable beekeepers to become better stewards of this premier pollinator.

2016 Laura Figueroa

Laura Figueroa is a PhD candidate at Cornell University. She will study bee pathogen transmission through shared use of floral resources. Her work combines observational data from the field with manipulative studies in the greenhouse. Her research will expand the understanding of pollinator pathogen transmission in natural systems and recommend flower species that maximize pollinator forage and minimize pathogen transmission for pollinator conservation efforts. 



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.