We are pleased to announce that the 2019 Dr. Chester Leathers Graduate Student Scholarship has been awarded to Nicole Colón-Carrión, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Betsy Arnold's lab at the University of Arizona School of Plant Sciences.
Ms. Colón-Carrión is studying the role of symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi for urgent reforestation of hurricane-damaged forest ecosystems, focusing on the biodiverse native forest communities in Puerto Rico that were severely impacted by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Her work aims to develop new strategies to restore severely damaged ecosystems expediently and effectively through beneficial fungi that help plants become established, tolerate stress, obtain nutrients, and use water efficiently. Moreover, it will provide hands-on and meaningful educational experiences for Puerto Rican students whose education has been affected by the hurricane and its economic and social consequences.
The research program has three main aims overall:
- Aim 1: Analyze the abundance, diversity, and composition of mycorrhizal fungi in roots from 6 native species of trees in Puerto Rico.
- Aim 2: Assess the effects of mycorrhizal-symbiotic relationships and native species of Puerto Rico by inoculating seedlings of five dominant forest trees and analyzing growth effects in a greenhouse setting.
- Aim 3: Quantify the efficacy of mycorrhizal fungi in improving reforestation success by transplantation and growth experiments in highly damaged forest ecosystems.
These goals will be supported by a program of local outreach and citizen science participation, which is a topic of great interest to a number of our more scientifically-oriented Society members. Ms. Colón-Carrión has indicated that she will be coming to our annual foray or winter meeting to give us a presentation on her work, which we are eager to hear.
Our award comes with a $1000 grant, which will be used for transportation expenses to and within Puerto Rico to allow her to continue her field work. We wish her all success in this important endeavor, and are pleased to be able to play a small part in supporting it.
The Leathers Scholarship was established by the AMS in 2017 to honor our Founding President Emeritus, Dr. Chester Leathers, retired Professor Emeritus of Microbiology at ASU. It provides an annual grant to a graduate student in a mycology-related field at one of the state universities of Arizona.