Senior Environmental Science major, Libby O' Brien, used her travel grant to present research at Botany 2018.
On her experience:
"This past week, I attended Botany 2018, an international conference hosted by the American Fern Society, Botanical Society of America, Canadian Botanical Association/L’Association Botanique du Canada, Society of Herbarium Curators, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and the International Association of Plant Taxonomists. I presented ongoing research from my research experience last summer at the Smithsonian Institution, where I analyzed spatial and genetic records from the Guiana Shield, a region of South America just north of the Amazon rainforest. The region is remote and diverse, spanning approximately 3 million square kilometers and encompassing savannas, grasslands, highlands, and tropical rainforests.
Last summer, I georeferenced 30 years of collected data and examined patterns of plant richness and endemism. I remained on this project remotely throughout this past school year, developing models and matrices that could predict areas of plant diversity and turnover rate for under-sampled regions of the Shield. Botany 2018 gave me the opportunity to share my work with other scientists, create future connections in this field, and receive feedback for future analyses. I will remain on this project as we finalize our methods in order to write a manuscript about our findings. Our next steps are to investigate the impact of sampling bias, a common problem for projects that rely on human interaction with landscapes that are difficult to access. I am incredibly appreciative of the funding support that I have received from both Villanova University and the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships to continue this work for the advancement of undergraduate research and greater understanding of unknown systems, like the Guiana Shield."