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


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. 

2016 Beth Morrison

Beth Morrison is a PhD candidate in the Biology Department at Stanford University. She is studying how agricultural areas can support healthy and diverse pollinator communities. Her research focuses on how plant-pollinator interactions are affected by agricultural development and whether pollinator species with certain interaction traits or evolutionary histories are more vulnerable to agricultural development.

2016 Danny F. Minahan

Danny F. Minahan is a PhD candidate in the Zoology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Protein in pollen is an important dietary source for developing bees. His research will investigate how the total protein content and amino acid profile of collected pollen relates to the foraging activity of the western honeybee and common eastern bumblebee in a shared habitat. This data will be used to model the foraging patterns of social bees in relation to the quality of pollen resources collected and inform habitat conservation projects designed to benefit our bee friends.

2016 Rebecca M. Dalton

Rebecca M. Dalton is a PhD candidate in Ecology at Duke University. Her research will assess the mechanisms of coexistence between two spring ephemerals, Eastern spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) under a changing climate. From 1978-1982 in Durham, NC, Alexander Motten and Diane Campbell studied the timing of flowering plants and their pollinators in the forest understory. She is returning to their field sites to compare flowering times and the pollinator community and to determine if flowering species compete for pollinators and other resources.  



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.