Bio Alumna Receives Prestigious Scholar Award
Rachel Schwallier, GVSU Alumna (’04, Biology major), has received a prestigious P.E.O. Scholar Award to support her doctoral work at Leiden University and Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands. Schwallier studies the diversification of one of the most intriguing groups of plants in the world; carnivorous pitcher plants (Nepenthes sp.). More specifically, her project aims to gain insight into the unique adaptations of these tropical species to their natural environment, and how they will cope with the changing climate. Pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes have impressive, liquid-filled pitchers in spectacular shapes and forms focused on trapping animal prey. The 140 species of tropical pitcher plants do this with complex interactions with animals, including carnivory on insects and sometimes even rats, along with many other mammal, bird, and insect interactions.
Schwallier will collect data and specimens through expeditions to isolated regions deep in the forests of South East Asia. From the high Malaysian mountaintops to the sandy shorelines of Thailand, she will record locality information for the climate models and collect samples for wood analysis. This research will be critically important to applied conservation planning. With the help of the Philanthropic Education Organization (P.E.O.), she looks forward to continuing this exciting work in understanding and preserving this unique and fascinating tropical diversity.
The P.E.O. Scholar Award was established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral level degree at an accredited college or university. The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded January 21, 1869, at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, is a philanthropic education organization interested in bringing increased opportunities for higher education to woman. There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.