Get Growing Blog

Holden Students Reach for the Moon, Land Among the Stars

July 16, 2021


One of the most important aspects of our work in the HF&G research department is mentoring students in independent research projects. Our research students include undergraduates and graduate students who come to us from the greater Cleveland area and beyond, to work on projects addressing important questions in ecology and evolutionary biology. As part of this process, we provide training in grant writing, and we encourage students to seek out their own project funding. The world of research grant funding is highly competitive, and one of the lessons our students learn is that it takes persistence, we encourage them to try and try again, recognizing that it is always a moonshot. Today, we celebrate four students working with HF&G research advisors who have recently been awarded funding to support their own independent research. More than just the joy of a cash award, which allows us here at HF&G to do even more cool science, these awards also provide affirmation to our students: that their hard work will pay off, that they have the tools they need to build a successful science career, and that their work is important and valued within the larger research and horticulture communities.

Congratulations to our students, we are so proud to see you reaching for the moon and coming back with a handful of stardust!

Caleb Thomas Lumsden

Award: The Garden Club of America Fellowship in Conservation Horticulture.

Project Title: Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Resistance Breeding.

Project description: Lumsden’s undergraduate research has focused on plant and microbial community composition, particularly on how communities are influenced by urbanization. With his GCA fellowship, Caleb will be working to initiate a breeding program that aims to develop varieties of eastern hemlock that are resistant to hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive pest driving population decline in eastern North American forest systems. Caleb will be working on various laboratory and greenhouse components of this project to develop these novel genotypes.

Research advisors: Dr. David Burke and Dr. Sarah Kyker

Sharon Danielson

Award: The Garden Club of America Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry, Funded by Casey Trees.

Project title: Investigating Variation in Stress Tolerance of Urban Tree Seedlings in Cleveland, Ohio.

Project description: Danielson studies how urbanization impacts tree function, growth, and distribution. She measures a combination of physiological and functional traits related to water and nutrient use to explore individual responses and community-level trait shifts across urban and rural forests. Her current work explores the local variation in water-stress tolerance in seedlings from local urban and rural seed sources. This will provide insight into the trajectory of urban remnant forests and the potential benefits of using native seed sources for plantings.

Research Advisor: Dr. Juliana S. Medeiros

Jessica LaBella

Awards: 1) The Corliss Knapp Engle Scholarship in Horticulture, and 2) Botanical Society of America Student Travel Scholarship.

Project title: Harnessing the Leaf Microbiome to Determine Disease Resistance in Wild Crabapples.

Project description: LaBella’s undergraduate research focused on the ecophysiology of the endangered species, running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum). Currently a member of the Wei Lab at the Holden Arboretum, in Cleveland, Ohio, she studies the evolutionary ecology of plant adaptation to environmental change in species of wild apples and wild strawberries. At the Wei Lab, she will integrate manipulative experiments, field collections, microbe culturing, and microbiome sequencing to explore interesting questions about plant disease susceptibility and resistance.

Research advisor: Dr. Na Wei

Alexa S. Wagner

Awards: 1) Botany In Action Fellowship at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 2) Student Restoration Research Grant from the Society of Ecological Restoration, Midwest Great Lakes Chapter, 3) Ohio Invasive Plants Council Research Grant.

Project title: Understanding the Impacts of Forest Restoration on Demographic Shifts in the Understory Plant Community.

Project description: The abandonment of agricultural lands is common in the United States. As forests regenerate on these degraded landscapes, the resultant forests tend to have fewer species and trees that grow more slowly than do old-growth forests. In part, these changes are driven by invasive species, originating from other parts of the world and establishing in these new-growth forests. These novel species can suppress or displace the native plants important for ecosystem health and functioning. In these new forests, trees tend to establish at the same time and mature at similar rates, creating dense, evenly-aged stands in contrast to original old-growth forests which have greater diversity of mixed-age native plants. To restore the historic integrity of these forests, forest managers implement removal of invasive plants while thinning dense tree stands through timbering. However, we lack a full understanding of how these efforts impact the health and diversity of these restored forests. My research explores how proper forest management creates resilient forests. During my graduate studies, I am quantifying the impacts of forest management on the growth, survival, herbivory, and dispersal of native and invasive plants. This research will inform best management practices, improving our ability to manage and restore our young forests. Using my connection with the Holden Arboretum, I will use this information to help influence the forest management decisions of landowners regionally, and beyond.

Research Advisor: Dr. Katharine L. Stuble

Learn more about the awards and funding agencies here:

Botanical Society of America Awards

Garden Club of America Scholarships

Ohio Invasive Plants Council Research Grants   

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Botany In Action Fellowship Society for Ecological Restoration Midwest Great Lakes Chapter Grants

Juliana Medeiros

Juliana Medeiros

Plant Biologist

I am originally from New Mexico, I moved to Ohio to work at Holden. For my research at Holden I am investigating how plants interact with their environment, and how physiological processes evolve, using Rhododendron as a model study system. I really do love plant physiology and ecology, and often people have accused me of having fun at work. Although I love being outside, my science skills and interests are really best suited to controlled laboratory experiments and common garden techniques, and I often work with plants grown at the science center, or in our collections, such as in the Layer Garden. I am also passionate about science education, and I especially enjoy helping people discover and foster their own special and unique talents. In my free time I enjoy creative endeavors like making reproductions of historical clothing, folk dancing and middle eastern hand drumming.

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