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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Garden Club of America Summer Scholarship in Field Botany


2017 Rachel Renne

Rachel Renne is a master’s student in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. She will serve as a field botanist for a study investigating the impacts of livestock grazing on plant diversity in Wyoming sagebrush (Artemisia tridentate) communities, as well as the influence of local and regional patterns of soil and water disturbances of sagebrush in the western US. As she becomes more proficient in plant identification skills and plant collection, she will mentor two undergraduate students in field botany and contribute to the collection of western plants in the Yale and Rocky Mountain herbariums.

2017 Colette Berg

Colette Berg is a master’s student at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. She is studying the evolution of inbreeding and outcrossing flowers in Venus’ looking glass genus Triodanis. This summer she will collect samples of
Triodanis perfoliata from meadows located in Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri, record the ratio of inbreeding to outcrossing flowers, and study the differences in genetic diversity between populations. Her goal is to provide more information about the evolution of unique mating systems of Triodanis.

2017 Catherine Hu

Catherine Hu is a master’s student in environmental conservation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She interns at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Shaw Nature Reserve, and her project focuses on a 60-acre woodland restoration. She will assist with invasive species control, seed collection, volunteer workdays, and prescribed burns. She will establish and monitor plots to document vegetation response to different invasive species control techniques and native seed addition. She will also create a website to interpret the objectives and progress of this restoration project for the public. Her work will provide insight for future restorations of Ozark woodlands.

2017 Lauren Audi

Lauren Audi is a master’s student studying plant biology and conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Her project is titled “Genetic Characterization of Caribbean Breadfruit: Advancing Food Security and Local Sustainable Agriculture via Germplasm Conservation and Collaboration with Local Growers.” She will study the unique diversity of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) in the Caribbean, using genetic approaches, as well as establish a germplasm collection at the St. Vincent Botanic Gardens in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to conserve this economical and environmentally important and underutilized tropical food crop species.

2016 Sam Skibicki

Sam Skibicki is a master’s student at Northern Arizona University(NAU) in Flagstaff, Arizona. His research will reconstruct the history of the subtribe (Zinniinae) with emphasis on (Sanvitalia) and (Zinnia). He will collect fresh plant samples from the southwestern United States and central Mexico to add to the current NAU herbarium collection. He will study the morphological characters, count chromosomes, and analyze nuclear and chloroplast DNA sequences. His project will create a phylogenetic tree and donate seeds for use in conservation and horticulture.

Funded by Garden Club of Lexington, KY,  Zone VII

2016 Jacob Zeldin

Jacob Zeldin is a master’s student studying plant biology and conservation at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied community ecology and plant functional traits. His research includes working with Plants of Concern, a Chicago area rare plant-monitoring program, to survey plant communities and explore the impacts of trait diversity on the growth and persistence of threatened plant populations in Illinois. He will apply the findings of his research to rare plant conservation and natural area restoration efforts in the region.

2016 Joshua Serrano

Joshua Serrano is a master’s student in Botany at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He will use molecular techniques to study Hawaiian (Psychotria) sect. Straussia and clarify species boundaries and their taxonomic relationships. He will travel throughout the Hawaiian Islands to collect leaves from wild populations and will use molecular data to test taxonomic validity of currently circumscribed species to investigate if they are congruent with morphological data or show distinct genetic taxa that warrant species recognition. His research will also assess the degree of genetic variation within and among representative populations of all species in sect. Straussia.

2016 Julia Harenčár

Julia Harenčár is a master's student in the Biology Department at California Polytechnic State University. Her research will study evolutionary patterns in goldfields (Lasthenia). She will collect specimens from Table Mountain in Northern California to the San Bernadino National Forest in Southern California to be deposited in the Robert F. Hoover Herbarium. She will use molecular biology techniques to determine how much, if any, hybridization is occurring between two nearly indistinguishable species of goldfields (Lasthenia californica) and (L. gracilis).

2015 Sam Wershow

Sam Wershow is a Master's degree candidate at Western Washington University in Bellingham. His research will investigate the impact of climate change on the endemic alpine wildflowers of the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. He will spend the summer mapping the distributions of these rare species and collecting ecological data on their habitat preferences. Using this data, Sam will build models that predict habitat loss for each species as climate warms.

2015 Nora Talkington

Nora Talkington is a second year Master's student studying plant biology and conservation at the joint program between the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University. Nora's research interests are Colorado Plateau plant restoration, invasive species, local adaptation and seed sourcing. Her thesis topic investigates native plant adaptation to invasive plants in southeastern Utah, with the goal of identifying competitive seed sources for restoring native plant communities within invaded areas.



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.