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Education: Garden Club of America Wetlands Scholarship

The Garden Club of America provides an Award in Coastal Wetlands Studies. The scholarship originated in 1966 when the Rockefeller Fund was established for the purpose of promoting environmental education. In 1999, Mrs. Edward Elliman, a member of the Rockefeller family and the Hortulus Garden Club chose to promote wetlands conservation through the support of young scientists in their field work and research.

The award is a one-year $5,000 scholarship to support graduate-level field-based research in coastal wetlands. The scholarship is administered by the Center for Coastal Resources Management, Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) at the College of William and Mary. Applications are reviewed by a selection committee of practicing wetland scientists.


  • Must be enrolled in a graduate program at a university within the U.S.
  • Field-based study must be in coastal wetlands in the U.S., defined as tidal or nontidal wetlands within the coastal states, including the Great Lake states.
  • A student may only apply to one GCA-sponsored scholarship per year.

Selection Criteria:

  • Technical merit of proposed work.
  • Degree to which the work is relevant to the Garden Club objective of promoting wetlands conservation.
  • There is a preference for students who are early in their degree programs.

Application opens December 1
Deadline: January 15

***** See application requirements for detailed instructions. *****

GCA Wetlands Scholarship Award Recipients in 2014

Eric Hazelton, a Ph.D. student at Utah State University, is conducting a large-scale removal of Phragmites australis in brackish marshes across nine Chesapeake Bay subwatersheds in order to determine how land use impacts restoration. He will compare nutrients, seedbank, and plant communities in 3 types of plots: where Phragmites is removed, where it is left intact, and native reference marshes. Additionally, he will use molecular techniques to track the success of individual Phragmites clones and reproduction. His results will help land managers focus their efforts and improve outcomes.

               Eric Hazelton Eric Hazelton Eric Hazelton
Eric Hazelton at work in Chesapeake Bay marshes.

Max Lambert, a Ph.D. student at Yale University, will study sex ratios (proportion of males and females) of spring peeper frog* babies in natural, forested wetlands as well as disturbed wetlands like suburban and agricultural ponds. Frog sex ratios are useful indicators of wetland health as well as contamination by human chemicals. The goal of his project is to understand how human land use and other environmental variables influence the reproductive health of wetland wildlife.
* Target species changed to wood frog.

                 Max Lambert Max Lambert Max Lambert
Max with green frog.
Wood frog in metamorphosis.
Max with gray tree frog.

Eliza McFarland, a Masters student at the University of Maryland, is studying wetland microbial communities (bacteria, archaea, fungi), which are essential in processing excess nitrogen-based nutrients, such as ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-). Recently, there has been an increase in microbial community studies for wetland restoration success assessment. She is proposing a complete survey of denitrifying microbial characteristics (biomass, composition and activity) in restored and natural depressional wetlands, in conjunction with a completed vegetation and soil survey.

Eliza McFarland Eliza McFarland Eliza McFarland
Liza collecting soil samples at a restored wetland.
At a natural wetland.
With field crew collecting soil samples at a natural wetland.

Shelby Rinehart, a Ph.D. student at San Diego State University, will conduct a series of experiments aimed at defining the interaction between the salt marsh lady beetle, scale insects, and smooth cordgrass. She will use field and laboratory experiments to assess the ability of lady beetles to control prey populations through an aggregative response, while also evaluating the ability of lady beetles to perceive volatile emissions (airborne chemicals) released by herbivore-attacked smooth cordgrass plants.

Shelby Rinehart Shelby Rinehart Shelby Rinehart
Shelby collecting temperature and pressure data from field sensors.
Conducting surveys of plant density and abundance of scale insects and ladybeetles.
Marking plants that are infested with scale insects for inclusion in field experiment.