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Scholarships

The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of CNPS has supported California native plant research by students since 1999.  Starting in 2018, the graduate student scholarships include the Donald Mayall Conservation Scholarship and the Sally Casey Shooting Stars Scholarship in recognition of the contributions of two of our Chapter’s CNPS Fellows who were very supportive of education, research and conservation activities.

2019-2020 Scholarship Recipients

Sarah Gaffney, UC Davis, (Sally Casey Shooting Stars Graduate Research Scholarship) is researching plant-soil feedbacks to understand their role in California grassland invasions.  Specifically, how are Aegilops triuncialis (goat grass) and Elymus caput- medusae (medusahead) changing nutrients, the microbial community and soil moisture.

Samantha Spurlin, San Jose State University (Don Mayall Conservation Research Scholarship). Samantha is studying the rapid evolution of a rare, herbaceous wildflower, Collinsia multicolor (San Francisco collinsia) and its eco-physiological variation during the severe California drought of 2011 to 2015. Plants grown from seeds obtained in 2013 and 2017/2018 from three populations will be examined for differences in flowering times, an important indicator of when the flowers are open and available for pollination; and for stomatal density changes showing how the plant is adapting to a changing climate.

Lacey Benson, San Jose State University (Graduate Research Scholarship). She is examining the desiccation tolerance of Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum) gametophytes and their recovery rate and morphology along the coast redwood ecological gradient in order to understand how this fern will be affected by climate change.

2018-2019 Scholarship Recipients

Livia Braga, San José State University (Graduate Research Scholarship). Livia will be working with four species of the moss genus Scleropodium whose ranges overlap (sympatric species). She is studying the niche differences that may affect species diversity and composition in these non-vascular plants.

Alyssa Hanover, San José State University (Sally Casey Shooting Stars Graduate Research Scholarship). Alyssa is working in second growth
coast redwood forest in Redwood National Park in the research area of assessing effective restoration of forest health. She notes that when using active management techniques to restore an ecosystem, it is critical to fully understand the potential benefits as well as impacts associated with implementation. The specific objective of her study is to determine how understory species composition varies between restorative treatments, including stands treated with and without mechanical thinning.

Keir Morse, Claremont Graduate University (Donald Mayall Conservation Graduate Research Scholarship). Keir’s work addresses the taxonomy and conservation of the genus Malocothamnus. This genus includes firefollowing shrubs in the mallow family (Malvaceae) that are taxonomically challenging. As a part of this work he plans to provide resources such as morphology assessments, extensive field work documentation and DNA analyses, to assist with resolving the taxonomy of the genus, including taxa that are on the CNPS rare plant list.

Nate Blackmore, University of California, Santa Cruz (Undergraduate Student Scholarship). Nate’s research topic for his senior thesis is serpentine endemics and the tradeoff between serpentine adaption and competitive ability. He will be assessing water use efficiency: competitive ability in greenhouse trials using nine native genera (species) and one non-native annual grass. Nate plans to share the results of his research at an undergraduate research poster symposium and with the Edgewood Weed Warriors.

2017-2018 Scholarship Winners

Alejandro Brambila, University of Oregon (Sally Casey Shooting Stars Graduate Research Scholarship). Alejandro is studying the effects of development on historic oak habitat composition and the distribution in the urban West Santa Clara Valley. He will be sampling sites in the peninsular west valley (roughly Palo Alto to Mountain View) and looking at how oaks are distributed throughout the urban landscape in the study area. 

Alexandria Igwe, University of California Davis (Donald Mayall Conservation Research Scholarship). Alexandria’s research seeks to understand how native plants adapted to serpentine soil utilize root-associated microorganisms to thrive in the presence of abiotic stress, such as drought and heavy-metal concentrations.

Kelly Santos, San Francisco State University (Graduate Research Scholarship). Kelly’s work involves Suaeda californica, a federally endangered low-growing coastal salt marsh shrub. 

Hannah Kang, University of California, Davis. (Undergraduate Research Scholarship). Hannah's research looks at how soil microbial communities vary depending on plant host with a focus on the effects of invasive annual grasses on native annual forb species. 

2016-2017 Scholarship Winners

Graduate Student Research Scholarships

Margot Buchbinder, San Francisco State University (Conservation Scholarship).  Margot is studying the effects of planting native California cordgrass (Spartina foliosa) in an active salt marsh restoration site at the Sears Point restoration site in north San Francisco Bay.  Margot’s work is designed to determine whether planting native Spartina can enhance recovery and reduce observed erosion.

Rebecca Hendricks, San Jose State University (Conservation Scholarship).  Rebecca’s studies focus on the Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca).  She is studying ecophysicological responses (including water stress and mortality) to seasonal drought across its range using sampling across 4 degrees of latitude at three locations (Joseph D Grant County Park, Los Padres National Forest and Condor’s Hope Ranch).  

Josephine Lesage, University of California, Santa Cruz.   Josephine’s work involves the effects of grazing and climate change on native annual forb persistence in California coastal prairies. Her work will assess coastal prairie sites from Monterey County through Mendocino County previously quantified by Grey Hayes and K.D. Holl.   The study is intended evaluate whether native annual forbs in coastal prairies are experiencing the same declines as native annual forbs in interior grasslands as the result of climate change and whether grazing management might buffer potential declines of native annual forb species.  

2015 Scholarship Winners

Graduate Student Research Scholarships

Prahlada Papper, University of California, Berkeley. (Conservation Scholarship) Prahlada is studying the movement of genetic characteristics through wind-borne pollen hybridization, focusing on blue oak and Oregon white oak. Understanding the degree of gene flow between these species is an important step towards an understanding of their potential responses, as well as management implications.

Kyle Christie, University of California, Davis. Kyle’s studies are designed to improve the understanding of the taxonomy and species delineation of the Streptanthus breweri complex of jewelflowers.

Julia Michaels, University of California, Davis. (Conservation Scholarship) Julia’s work involves a study of plant diversity in vernal pools. Her studies will be looking at the effects of grazing on vernal pool plant diversity on an 1,132 acre site in Sacramento County.

Undergraduate Student Scholarship

Jannah Wren at University of California, Davis. The purpose of her research is to evaluate the effect of root nodule symbiosis (nitrogen fixation) in native, non-legume (actinorhizal) plants.

Native Plant Roots and Serpentine Soil

ln December 2017 Alexandria Igwe, a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, was awarded the Donald Mayall Research Scholarship by our Chapter. Alexandria (Allie) has shared with us an article describing the purpose of her research along with some preliminary results.

Native Plant Roots and Serpentine Soil

By Alexandria Igwe, UC Davis July 2018

Green forest (nonserpentine) adjacent to grassy field (serpentine)Soil found at Coyote Ridge, McLaughlin Natural Reserve, Hopland Research and Extension Center and Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve have one thing in common: they were created through the weathering of ultramafic rock. Soil created from ultramafic rocks, serpentine soil, covers about 1% of California, but 13% of the state’s endemic plant species call it home. Serpentine soil is easily identified when it exists next to nonserpentine soil. There is usually a sharp change in vegetation from oaks and tall grasses in nonserpentine soil to small wildflowers and sparse trees in serpentine soil. In general, serpentine and nonserpentine soil can be considered a world divided. Many plants that exist on one soil type cannot survive on the other. Still, there are a class of serpentine-indifferent plants that are able to grow on both serpentine and nonserpentine soils.

Read more:

We thank Alexandria for her research and look forward to hearing more about her interesting work in serpentine habitat as her studies are completed. Alexandria may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society is offering scholarships to students doing research on native plant or plant community conservation, plant ecology, plant community restoration, plant systematics, rare plants or other related botanical studies of native plants that grow in habitats in Central and Northern California. Scholarships may be awarded to:

  • graduate students; or
  • an undergraduate student or undergraduate research team (consisting of one or more undergraduates and a supervising faculty member).

Students researching topics related to native plant and native habitat conservation in the San Francisco Bay Area are encouraged to apply.

Academic scholarships of $1,500 for graduate student research and a $1,000 scholarship for undergraduate student research are available. Evaluation of applications will focus on the stated purpose of the research, experimental design, relationship to native plant and native habitat conservation, and overall impression of the research project.

Scholarship Requirements

Applicants must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in an accredited college or university and undertaking botanical research related to native plants or native plant communities in Central or Northern California.

Required Information

Graduate Research Scholarship Undergraduate Research Scholarship
  1. Graduate Research Application Form
  2. Copy of Transcript (showing course work)
  3. Recommendation/Statement of Qualifications from Major Advisor
  1. Undergraduate Research Application Form (completed by Academic advisor and student(s))

Please note: There are separate application forms for individual graduate students and undergraduate students or research teams.

Send required application materials to:


California Native Plant Society, Scholarship Committee
c/o Karen Cotter
1510 Lima Court
San Jose, CA 95126

Applications must be postmarked by November 22, 2020

Scholarships will be awarded by December 31, 2020. Recipients are requested to share the results of their study or make a brief presentation on their research at a Santa Clara Valley CNPS Chapter meeting in 2021.

*If a scholarship recipient cannot make a Chapter meeting, other options and/or submittal of a brief article for our chapter newsletter) can be arranged.

The SCV Chapter would appreciate receiving an electronic copy of research results (thesis, dissertation, reports and/or journal articles) once research is complete.

Questions?

Questions regarding the scholarship application can be e-mailed to Karen Cotter, the Scholarship Chair at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Since 1999, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has sponsored a scholarship program for students doing research on native plant or plant community conservation, plant ecology, plant community restoration, plant systematics, rare plants or other related botanical studies of native plants that grow in habitats in Central and Northern California. There are three scholarships available.  Two are awarded to research that focus on specific, however not exclusive, topics. The Sally Casey Shooting Stars Research Scholarship is focused on research involving native wildflowers, native grasses and grasslands, soil carbon, and soil interactions.  The Don Mayall Conservation Research Scholarship is focused on research on rare plants and serpentine ecosystems.

Students researching topics related to native plant and native habitat conservation in the San Francisco Bay Area are encouraged to apply. Applications must be postmarked by November 22, 2020.

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