Arnold Arboretum Announces 2017 Fellowships and Awards Recipients

March 31, 2017

Arnold Arboretum Announces 2017 Fellowships and Awards Recipients

Every year, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University grants a number of fellowships and awards to advance independent research projects by students, post-doctoral researchers, and biological and horticultural science professionals. Stemming from the Arboretum’s mission to support and facilitate scientific inquiry and knowledge sharing about the plant kingdom, these opportunities enable researchers to pursue their investigations using resources available at the Arboretum, including a world-renowned Living Collection of woody plants, extensive herbaria, plant records, library and archives, greenhouses and laboratories, and expert staff. Fellowship and award recipients bring exciting new projects to the Arboretum that span a diverse range of disciplines, from organismic and evolutionary biology, molecular and developmental biology, and plant physiology to studies in ecology, environment, and biodiversity.

Elizabeth Spriggs

2017 Putnam Fellow Elizabeth Spriggs

Made possible by the generosity of George and Nancy Putnam through the Putnam Fellows Fund, The Katharine H. Putnam Fellowship in Plant Science offers an excellent opportunity for advanced research and study using the Arboretum’s Living Collection of woody plants.The recipient of the 2017 Putnam Fellowship is Elizabeth Spriggs, an evolutionary biologist with a passion for plant conservation. Beth will receive her doctoral degree this summer from Yale University where she works in the laboratory of Professor Michael Donoghue. As part of her PhD work, Beth spent countless hours at the Arboretum studying the Viburnum Collection. As a Putnam Fellow, Elizabeth’s research will focus on two severely threatened North American genera, chestnuts and ashes (Castanea and Fraxinus). Using phylogeographic and genomic perspectives, Elizabeth will examine genetic diversity and population structure in relation to disease with an eye towards identifying individuals of conservation value. Beth will begin her Putnam Fellowship in January 2018. See current and past Putnam Fellows.

The Sinnott Award provides support for scholars in the botanical sciences to conduct research that utilizes the Living Collection. The 2017 Sinnott Awardees are Margaret Kosmala, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Richardson Lab at Harvard University, and Jessica Savage, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota. Margaret will collaborate with 2017 Sargent Award winner David Basler to gather multispectral photographs and localized temperatures of the Arboretum over time using an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) and temperature loggers. Margaret and David will use the data to examine the relationship between plant phenology (the timing of life events) and genetic adaptation in response to local topography and temperature. Look for Margaret and David operating their drone in the Arboretum landscape this spring. Expanding on her research as a Putnam Fellow, Jessica will examine the relationship between the re-activation of water transport in the spring and plant phenology. Jessica’s new project will broaden her use of the Living Collection as well as introduce her students to the expanse of research possibilities that the Arboretum offers. Jessica will begin her Sinnott Award studies at the Arboretum starting in late July 2017. See current and past Sinnott Awardees.

The Sargent Award (made possible by the generosity of Dr. Jack Wittenberg through the Charles Sprague Sargent Fund) provides support for visiting scholars in the botanical sciences to conduct basic research that utilizes the living, library, and/or herbarium collections of the Arnold Arboretum. The 2017 Sargent Awardees are David Basler, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Richardson Lab at Harvard University; Michael Dietrich, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Biology at Dartmouth College; and Scott Dietrich, photographer and co-curator of the Hong Kong Stair Archive. David will collaborate with 2017 Sinnott Award winner Margaret Kosmala on the landscape phenology survey described above. Brothers Michael and Scott Dietrich share a research interest in Ernest Henry Wilson, one of the Arnold Arboretum’s legendary plant explorers of the early twentieth century. From the over 7,000 images in the Arboretum library archives, Michael and Scott will select images this July for their upcoming book, The Photography of Ernest Henry Wilson. See current and past Sargent Awardees.

The Genomics Initative and Sequencing Award provides a grant to support de novo sequencing, analysis, and data sharing of key individuals in the Arboretum’s Living Collection. Aligned with the Campaign for the Living Collections, this award is designed to enhance a newly launched “genomic type collection” of plants at the Arnold Arboretum—the first such collection in the world and a central resource for the future of comparative genomics, developmental biology, whole plant physiology, phylogenetics, and plant responses to the environment. Two Genomics Initative and Sequencing Awards were granted in 2017—one to Aureliano Bombarely, Assistant Professor of Horticulture at Virginia Tech and Jose I. Hormaza, Professor at IHSM La Mayora in Spain, and one to Susan Strickler, Research Associate at the Boyce Thomposon Institute (BTI); Fay-Wei Li, Assistant Professor, BTI; and Eric Richards, Professor and Vice President of Research, BTI. Aureliano and Jose will focus on Asimina triloba (North American pawpaw), one of the few fruit tree crops native to North America, and the only species in its family adapted to temperate climates. The scientists will sequence the genome of Arnold Arboretum accession 12708*A, the Arboretum’s oldest representative of this species which was accessioned in 1903. Susan, Fay-Wei, and Eric will develop genomic resources for Fagus grandifolia (North American beech), an economically important hardwood species. The genomes of an insect-resistant accession will be compared to susceptible varieties allowing the characterization of genes involved in resistance.

The Ashton Award for Student Research (made possible by the generosity of Professor Peter Ashton and his wife Mary Ashton through the Peter and Mary Ashton Training Fund) supports investigations by graduate and advanced undergraduate students working on Asian tropical forest biology. The 2017 Ashton Awardees are Agusti Randi, Master’s Student at Bagor Agricultural University, Indonesia, and Stephanie Schmiege, PhD Student at Columbia University. Randi focuses on the taxonomy, ecology and conservation of wild palms (genus Pinanga), and will be studying in Indonesian Borneo. Stephanie focuses on the mechanisms driving the response of conifers to stressful environmental conditions, particularly drought caused by climate change. She will be working in Vietnam. See current and past Ashton Awardees.

More information on research awards and fellowships at the Arboretum