Biology Student Receives Golden Opportunity

The UCF Department of Biology is pleased to announce that Shelly Gaynor has been named as the winner of the 2016 Golden Opportunity Scholars Award by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America.  Shelly is a junior majoring in Biology and has been involved in undergraduate research working with Eric Hoffman, Ph.D., and Linda Walters, Ph.D. Her current project with Dr. Hoffman and Dr. Walters aims to evaluate the impact of current restoration efforts on genetic diversity of smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, used for shoreline stabilization, within the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida. Shelly is dedicated to increasing female presence and overall helping students pursue science by promoting undergraduate research at UCF.

Shelly will be receiving her Golden Opportunity Scholars award at the Annual Awards Ceremony on November 8 in Phoenix AZ. The annual awards are presented for outstanding contributions to agronomy through education, national and international service, and research.

Shelly is a member of the Student Undergraduate Research Council and was the Vice-President of the Mad Scientists Research Society, which is devoted to exposing students to the different aspects of science and helping them pursue research positions at the university. She led the formation of The Seedlings mentoring program for the Mad Scientists and is now the professional development director.  Shelly has also served as a mentor for freshmen women majoring in biology through the GEMS (Girls EXCELing in Math and Science) program for two years. After she graduates, she aims to pursue a Ph.D. in plant science.

This summer Shelly is participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in the Smith Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. The project aims to identify the ecological and historical processes underlying plant community assembly in sites across the United States that have been surveyed by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).  Shelly’s specific project combines a phylogenetic framework and continental-scale data on plant communities to test the importance of ploidy and native status in structuring communities of the agriculturally important Brassicaceae and Rosaceae families across the United States.

Shelly will be presenting this project at Botany 2016 and the 2016 International Annual Meeting for The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.

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