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SUNY Plattsburgh Botany Students Awarded for Plant-Related Studies

The Botanical Society of America has once again recognized a number of SUNY Plattsburgh students for their work in the field.

This year, three SUNY Plattsburgh students were among only 25 students in the United States and Canada to receive the society’s Young Botanist Award.  Seniors Sasha Dow-Kitson of Trinidad and Tobago, Lilly Schelling of East Schodack and Alex Scharf of Malone were given the honor in recognition of plant-related studies and high academic standing.

Six Plattsburgh Students Recognized in Four Years

“It really does represent the best graduating seniors who have studied plant-related sciences,” said Chris Martine, associate biology professor.

Four years ago, the first Plattsburgh student received the award, he said. Since then, six SUNY Plattsburgh students have been recognized.

Schelling, who majors in ecology, was recognized for discovering drosera – a species of sundew, a carnivorous plant often found in bogs, marshes and fens — in Clinton County.

‘There Are Great Opportunities Here’

For Schelling, the mentoring of her professors and availability of research projects were to thank for the award.

“My experience here has been great – nothing like I expected,” she said. “There are great opportunities here.”

Dow-Kitson, a biology major, shares Schelling’s appreciation for SUNY Plattsburgh. While here, she studied highly invasive plants on the verge of taking over Lake Champlain and recognized possible reproductive seeds.

“Here, I’ve been able to examine all areas of science, as opposed to back home, where you choose a specific field,” she said. “I had the opportunity to figure myself out. I liked that I had the ability to do the research.”

Alex Scharf, an environmental science major, has completed several research projects, including establishing the first cultivated population of a species, Solanum sejunctum. He has also presented research at the national Botany convention and is involved with the local and sustainable foods movement.

Grants Awarded for Undergraduate Botany Research

In addition to the Young Botanist Awards, two SUNY Plattsburgh students — Megan Ward and Jennifer Collins — were recognized with Undergraduate Research Awards, part of a competitive small grants program. Last year, only six students in North America received the award. To apply, students must write a 2,000 word grant proposal, which goes through multiple drafts.

“They see a lot of my red ink before it even goes out,” Martine said. “I want them to learn how to write grant proposals and see what it’s like to be a research scientist.”

In addition, Ward has been elected to serve a two-year term as one of two student representatives on the BSA’s board of directors.
Both Ward and Collins will stay in Plattsburgh this summer to work with Martine on plant-related studies.

“It’s a benefit to being in a beautiful place,” Martine said.

“Really what we have right now is a relatively small botany program, but, because of the students, it’s really become an outstanding program,” he continued. “It’s not so much the number of students you have, but it’s the passion they put into it.”

He said that passion is the reason the botany program has become a minor, the only one in all of the SUNY system.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “We’ve got some great momentum right now.”

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