College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

AWRI Undergrad Wins Best Oral Presentation Competition

Date: April 2, 2013


Danielle Grimm

Pictured above:  Danielle Grimm receives her award for Best Student Presentation
 at the annual Midwest Aquatic Plant Management Society meeting


Danielle Grimm, an undergraduate student working with Dr. Ryan Thum at AWRI, won the student presentation competition at the Midwest Aquatic Plant Management Society’s annual meeting in Cleveland, OH on March 5, 2013 for her oral presentation “Invasive Hybrid Watermilfoils are Sexually Viable: Evidence from laboratory crosses and genetic analysis of natural populations”.

Hybrid watermilfoil are created through the successful reproduction of native, northern watermilfoil with invasive Eurasian watermilfoil.  These hybrid plants can exhibit nuisance traits such as unusually fast growth and decreased sensitivity to herbicides. While it is well known that these plants can spread simply by cloning themselves, it was not previously known whether hybrids can sexually reproduce through their flowers. The ability to sexually reproduce is important because it can provide a mechanism for reestablishing nuisance hybrid populations after a herbicide treatment. However, hybrid plants and animals are often sterile because of how genetically different their parents are (e.g., mating a horse with a donkey creates sterile mules). Danielle, along with former AWRI graduate student Liz LaRue, showed that hybrid watermilfoils are able to reproduce sexually by manipulating hybrid plants in the laboratory. Furthermore, the study used genetic analysis of natural populations to show that naturally-occurring hybrid plants have reproduced sexually.

“Attending and presenting at this conference was a phenomenal opportunity,” says Grimm. “To have my first oral presentation so well received by the aquatic plant management community was very encouraging, and I received some insightful feedback which will be very valuable when preparing presentations in the future. Also, this provided an excellent opportunity to network and gain insight into non-academic perspectives on herbicides and invasive species. Ryan Thum, my advisor, was also incredibly helpful throughout the entire process. He initially encouraged me to present at the conference, and subsequently helped in the development of the presentation through insightful commentary on delivery, language choice, and visual presentation of abstract genetic concepts.”

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