May 2020 graduates Ava Adler and Luisa Ann McGarvey have been recognized with the Young Botanist Award from the Botanical Society of America.
The award, which is given to only 25 graduating seniors nationwide, recognizes outstanding students in the plant sciences and encourages their participation in the Botanical Society of America.
Adler and McGarvey have both done research in Professor of Biology Michael Moore’s plant systematics lab.
“Ava and Luisa have both done a great job working with me over the past two years on a variety of projects,” Moore says. “Their work has led to important new insights in plant evolution, and will help with conservation of rare plants in both Hawaii and Mexico. The Young Botanist Award is really important for both recognizing and encouraging the next generation of botanists.”
Adler has long-held interests in gardening, farming, and cooking with local produce. Adler began to engage their interests in plant biology after taking a course with Professor of Biology Marta Laskowski.
“I took every plant-related class I could at Oberlin and spent every summer doing plant research after taking that course,” says Adler, who earned a degree in biology.
In Moore’s lab, Adler conducted research with a plant in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, extracting DNA from specimens and creating a family tree. Adler spent a summer doing research funded by the National Science Foundation working with nitrogen-fixing plants. Over the last year, Adler did an honors thesis with Moore and his collaborators, Ann Sakai and Stephen Weller at University of California, Irvine, working with the endangered native Hawaii genus Schiedea to answer questions about speciation and hybridization between two species.
Adler, who most recently is from Los Angeles, was on the pre-med track and intends to apply to medical school after hiking the Appalachian Trail.
McGarvey’s interest in plant science sparked from taking Biology 200 her sophomore year.
“I was particularly interested in how through lab work we can learn about unknown evolutionary relationships through the extraction of DNA from preserved plants,” McGarvey says. “Working in Professor Moore’s lab has given me the opportunity to learn so much about phylogenetics, morphometrics, and phylogeography that I might not have had the chance to learn about otherwise.”
In Moore’s lab, McGarvey has been focused on a desert plant genus called Thelesperma.
“Two summers ago I started research on this project to find out if there was a potentially unidentified species within this genus. At first I was extracting DNA to help make a phylogenetic (evolutionary) tree of all the species in this genus, and more recently have moved on to analyzing floral characteristics of the same genus. Thanks to Professor Moore I got the chance to make a poster presentation on this research at the Botany 2019 conference.”
In summer 2019, she helped conduct molecular lab work on the Hawaiian plant genus Schiedea as part of a larger project with Moore's collaborators that aims to build a DNA library of this genus.
McGarvey, who is from Takoma Park, Maryland, continues to work remotely for Moore’s lab over the summer. Her interests lie in the fields of plant ecology, conservation biology, and public health. She hopes to gain more field and lab research experiences before applying to graduate school.
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