National grant honors student environmental studies team
Seniors Kelly Ferron and Christina Hagerty are teaming up to study an endangered plant found only in the serpentine soils south of Santa Clara University. The duo were awarded a prestigious $6,000 grant from the Clare Boothe Luce Program last May to research Dudleya setchellii, a yellow-blooming perennial found in southern Santa Clara County.
Because of its limited range, the plant has not been the focus of extensive research previously. It was federally listed as endangered in 1995. Hagerty and Ferron plan to take a census and study its bloom pattern to map out a “life cycle”—key to understanding the plant’s role in the ecosystem of the low-mineral soils of Coyote Ridge, about 25 miles from the Mission campus.
“Basically, we’re going to try and figure out what’s going on in the hopes of providing an adaptive management system to the people who are managing the preserve,” Ferron said.
The Luce grant will cover supplies and transportation expenses for their research, which will be presented next spring at the Undergraduate Science and Engineering Symposium at SCU.
Both students are environmental science majors. They gained research experience two years ago on a field course in Costa Rica led by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Michelle Bezanson and Environmental Sciences Lecturer Sean Watts. Hagerty was so inspired by the experience that she switched her major from health care to environmental science. This award affirms that decision, she said, and her interest in the neglected but potentially very important plant. “You just have to be curious enough about something to want to ask questions,” Hagerty said.
Since its inception in 1989, the Clare Boothe Luce Program has supported more than 1,500 women pursuing scientific research across the United States. The research could have longterm preservation effects for the plant, said Bezanson—in addition to being “an extremely important honor for the students, for us, and for SCU.”