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Biodiversity Blog


Linda Escobar 2021 Award Recipients Announced

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The Linda Escobar Award was established by family and friends to honor the memory of the late Linda Katherine Albert de Escobar (1940–1993), a botanist, educator, and alumna of the UT Plant Biology program whose research centered on the systematics of the genus Passiflora, the widespread and taxonomically diverse plant genus that includes the cultivated passion-fruits. It provides stipends each year for one or more graduate student in Plant Biology or EEB to do fieldwork in conjunction with evolutionary studies involving plants. Although preference is given to students working in the tropics and who have not previously received an Escobar award, applications from students working elsewhere and previous awardees are also accepted. Students are expected to collect herbarium specimens for the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center during their fieldwork to serve as vouchers for their research. Because of the pandemic, no awards were made in 2020, thus additional funds were available for 2021. The award is administered through the Instructional Office in the Integrative Biology Department and the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center. Thanks to Tamra Rogers of the IB Instructional Office for her help with this year’s competition. This year, funds were sufficient for the evaluation committee to approve four awards to deserving students!

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Keri Greig is a doctoral student in Brian Sedio’s lab. Her research involves the studying biochemical diversity as potential drivers of species radiations in two tropical genera, Palicourea and Psychotria (both in the coffee family, Rubiaceae). Keri’s award will help to fund her field work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. 

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Alison Northup

Alison Northup is a doctoral student in Tim Keitt’s lab. Although her main research involves the fluid dynamics of trees in seasonally dry environments, she also has a strong interest in developing a better understanding of morphologically variable species in the wood sorrel genus Oxalis. Her Escobar Award will help to defray travel expenses to remote areas in Texas for this project. Alison previously received an Escobar Award, but was unable to utilize the funds because of last year’s obstacles to field work.

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Fiona MacNeill

Fiona MacNeill is a doctoral student in Brian Sedio’s lab. Her research involves the evolution of chemical defenses against herbivores in taxonomically diverse tropical plant genera and focuses on the coevolution between passion-flowers (members of the genus Passiflora) and passion-vine butterflies (members of the tribe Heliconiini of the family Nymphalidae). Her Escobar Award will help to defray travel expenses to study populations in Panama.

(Photo: Larry Gilbert)

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Lydia Tressel is a doctoral student in Bob Jansen’s lab who is studying morphological and genomic evolution in the legume genus Medicago (which contains alfalfa and several other forage species known as medics). Lydia will use her Escobar Award to travel to California where she will expand her taxonomic sampling of species in Medicago and related genera.

Congratulations to all of this year’s award recipients!

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