PLATTSBURGH - A group of undergraduate students from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh has been selected for national awards by the Botanical Society of America.
Ecology student Lilly Schelling, environmental studies/individualized studies student Alex Scharf, and biology student Sasha Dow-Kitson were each recognized with the Young Botanist Award, which is given to high-achieving seniors engaging in plant-related studies.
Schelling, who was recognized for her work in determining distributions of two native insectivorous plants in Clinton County, was taken back by word she would receive the award.
"I didn't expect to win, but I was really excited. Actually, I think my family was even more excited than me," said Schelling, laughing.
Scharf, who was recognized for his research on the cultivation, ploidy level and pollination in the dioecious Solanum species, was also excited to win the award, which included a complimentary student membership in the BSA.
"I think this is really helpful to graduating students who are taking a break before graduate school and are struggling financially to pay back student loans," said Scharf. "The award will essentially allow me to stay informed and connected to the BSA community which is pretty important to a growing botanist."
Biology students Megan Ward and Jennifer Collins were recipients of Undergraduate Student Research Awards from the BSA. The competitive small grants program requires students to write a 2,000-word proposal and support letter from their research advisor. Ward was recognized for her research on the biology of wall-lettuce, an invasive plant species related to the dandelion found in Rugar Woods and Point Au Roche.
"I already felt like I had already accomplished so much already with my project, I was happy enough with that," said Ward. "I thought [getting the award] was really cool, though."
Collins was recognized for her research on the effects of nitrogen and phosphorous on the growth and reproduction of European frogbit, an invasive plant becoming abundant in Lake Champlain.
"I was ecstatic," Collins said of receiving word she won the award. "It was a stressful project, but it was worth it."
Dr. Christopher Martine, associate professor of biological sciences at the university, said the BSA doesn't traditionally give many undergraduate awards. The recognition, said Martine, is a way to acknowledge "the most promising graduates in North America who have studied plant-related subjects."
"Only around 25 graduating seniors per year have been honored as Young Botanists since the program began in the mid-1980s," said Martine, adding the Undergraduate Research Award program chooses even fewer recipients. "Only five were awarded last year and I expect it will be something like that for 2011 ... So, the fact that we had two students selected is a big deal."
The five students, overall, are a "real credit to the campus," added Martine.
(Editor's Note: Student award-winner Sasha Dow-Kitson could not be reached for comment by the time this article went to press. Dow-Kitson was recognized for her research of the reproductive biology of Hydrocharis morsus-ranae, an aquatic invasive plant in Lake Champlain.)