Tom and Bruce Shinn fund Recipients 2020

Protecting Gray’s Lily

Ben Brewer (Appalachian State University) is investigating the beautiful Gray’s Lily (Lilium grayi), which is found in the Southern Appalachians of North Carolina and neighboring states.  Gray’s Lily is susceptible to Lily Leaf Spot, and Ben will use extensive field surveys, especially of the large population at Tater Hill Plant Preserve, to monitor the fungal disease and collect flower and fruit number.  Gray’s Lily also faces genetic degradation through hybridization with the more common Canada Lily (Lcanadense).  Using molecular markers and over 300 individual plants, Ben will determine the population structure of Gray’s Lily and the extent to which hybridization threatens the survival of the species.

“Demographic monitoring and investigation of hybridization in Lilium grayi.” Advisor: Dr. Matt Estep


Genetic diversity of Ramps Populations

David Camp’s (Appalachian State University) research focus is on Ramps (Allium tricoccum).  Although not currently endangered, Ramps have a long cultural history in the Southeast, and the culinary world has taken notice.  Concerns of overharvesting have prompted David to document the genetic diversity found in Ramps populations in the Great Smoky National Park.  Having data before a species becomes imperiled is a great tool to use for monitoring and then implementing conservation practices, which is what David hopes to accomplish.


“Conservation Genetics of Ramps (Allium tricoccum).” Advisor: Dr. Matt Estep


Potential of Princess tree to replace Tulip Poplar

Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a familiar member of plant communities throughout the Southeast.  Noticing that the aggressively invasive Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) is ecologically similar to Tulip Poplar, Hannah Dinkins (Western Carolina University) decided to study the potential of the Princess Tree to replace it in Southern Appalachians forest communities.  To do this, she will use seedlings in burned and unburned research plots across natural light gradients.  After the first year, she will measure multiple parameters, such as water use, photosynthetic rates, and biomass, to compare the two species.

“Photosynthesis, water use, and biomass allocation of Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) and Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) first year seedlings across a light gradient and with or without prescribed fire.” Advisor: Dr. Beverly Collins


Pollinators found on High-elevation Rocky Outcrops

Carson Ellis (Western Carolina University) is interested in the pollination of plant communities on remote high-elevation outcrops in the Southern Appalachians.  These resource limited and isolated habitats, sparsely distributed and exposed to harsh weather conditions, present challenges to pollinators and researchers alike.  Carson will monitor these plant communities over time, collecting data related to pollination in order to assemble a floral visitation network.   To strengthen the network connections, he will also analyze the pollen grains of captured pollinators.  Understanding pollinator and plant assemblages of these rare outcrops, which often harbor endemic and imperiled plants, will be critical information in protecting these fragile habitats.

“Seasonal Dynamics of Floral Visitation Networks on High-Elevation Rock Outcrops.” Advisor: Dr. Beverly Collins


Hidden Secrets of Shining Clubmoss

Shining Clubmoss (Huperzia lucidula) is found in moist coniferous and mixed hardwood forests throughout North Carolina and may arbor a compound useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  Secondary metabolites have already been isolated from its Asian relative, Toothed Clubmoss, and are being used medicinally, leading to a decline in natural populations.  Currently, neither clubmoss can be propagated in nurseries.  Before interest in Shining Clubmoss here in North Carolina leads to overharvesting, Vanessa Gremler (Appalachian State University) is keen to discover whether or not it harbors endophytic fungi that produce the medically relevant secondary metabolites.  She is also interested in isolating the symbiotic endophytic fungi that live with Shining Clubmoss, as knowledge may allow others to propagate it in nursery settings.

“Analysis of AChE Inhibitors in Huperzia lucidula Endophytes.” Advisor: Dr. Annkatrin Rose


Who pollinates Venus Flytraps?

The Venus Flytrap is one of the most charismatic plant species in the South, yet there has been only limited work on its pollination ecology, critical information in protecting the species. Laura Hamon (North Carolina State University) is continuing her fieldwork she began in 2018 to document the various species that visit Venus Flytraps and empirically show which is the most efficient pollinator of the species. She will also focus on the seed set of the Venus Flytrap and assess the effects of supplemental prey (ie feeding them crickets) and/or pollen on seed numbers.

“Pollination ecology of Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula).” Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Irwin


Rare Pitcher Plants and their Associated Flies

Peter Kann’s (East Carolina University) work is on the relationship between the well-known pitcher plants (Sarracenia) and the flies that use them as host plants (Fletcherimyia), feeding on the pitcher plant’s captured prey.  Peter is focused on two endangered pitcher plants, Sjonesii and Soreophila and will determine which species of Fletcherimyia is associated with these two rare plants. 

“One flew over the pitcher plant: updating ecological associations between pitcher plant flies and their carnivorous hosts.”
Advisor: Dr. Trip Lamb


Stressful Living on Mountain Out-crops

Ryan O’Connell (Duke University) is studying factors that could negatively impact populations of the imperiled Mountain Golden Heather (Hudsonia montana), which is found in only a few locations in the North Carolina mountains. Given that plants often experience more than one environmental stressor at a time, Ryan will be examining both soil moisture levels and invasive species abundance simultaneously and separately in scientific plots.  He will then measure survival, growth, and seed set of the Mountain Golden Heather and use the collected data to model predicted population changes.

“Effects of co-occurring anthropogenic stressors on Hudsonia montana, a critically imperiled North Carolina endemic.” Advisor: Dr. William Morris

Photo credit Emily Whiteley


Bluff Mountain Lichen Community

Bubba Pfeffer (Appalachian State University) plans to study the often overlooked but highly diverse lichen community.  His study site is Bluff Mountain, an area known to harbor several rare plant communities, and he will sample lichens in all forest types and on rock outcrops.  Because lichens are composite organisms composed of one or multiple species of fungi and algae or cyanobacteria, Bubba is interested in not simply cataloging the species but instead documenting a more functional aspect of the intricate interactions and assemblages that compose the different lichen communities.

“Bluff Mountain Lichen Community Descriptions.” Advisor: Dr. Mike Madritch


Genetic diversity of the Endangered Rough-leaved Yellow Loose-strife

Lysimachia asperulifolia (Rough-leaved Yellow Loose-strife), found only in the coastal plain of North and South Carolina, is an endangered species.  Jessica Roach’s (University of North Carolina at Wilmington) research will focus on documenting the genetic diversity within nine known populations.  The rhizomatous species appears to reproduce sexually at a low rate, so it is vital to understand how clonal the remaining populations are.  Her data will contribute to the management and protection of the species.

“A comprehensive population genetics study of Lysimachia asperulifolia (rough-leaved yellow loose-strife) throughout its natural range.” Advisor: Dr. Darin Penneys


Grassland Competition under Simulated Climate Change Conditions

Anita Simha (Duke University) will be studying what impacts climate change can have on native and non-native grasses.  Her research focus is to how shifts in the timing of germination and flowering could favor one species over the other.   Her study site will be an old field where she will simulate early germination of three grassland species in different combinations and document how the competitive dominance of the grasses changes depending on which species germinates first.  Our warming planet can have unforeseen effects on the make-up of plant communities.  Studies such as Anita’s will be valuable information for future conservation efforts.  Anita will also use her research field site as an educational tool for one-day STEM summer camps for Durham Public School students.

“Impact of seasonal shifts and resource availability on competitive dominance of an exotic grass in a Piedmont grassland.” Advisor: Dr. Justin Wright


2019 Tom and Bruce Shinn Grant Recipients

David De La Mater, Duke University

“Effects of elevated temperatures and eutrophication on plant-herbivore interactions and impacts on a salt marsh foundation species.” Advisor: Dr. Justin Wright

Georgia Harrison, Appalachian State University

“Impact of rock-climbing disturbance and microhabitat characteristics on cliff face vegetation communities of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.” Advisor: Dr. Michael Madritch

Matthew Hodges, East Carolina University

“Investigating the role of soil legacy effects and community engagement in the management of Lespedeza cuneata, an invasive legume.” Advisor: Dr. Carol Goodwillie

Ethan Hughes, Appalachian State University

“The flora of the Boone Fork headwaters within Grandfather Mountain State Park.” Advisor: Dr. Zack Murrell

Michael Kunz, UNC- Chapel Hill

“Population ecology of Astragalus michauxii, a rare southeastern US endemic species.” Advisor: Dr. Alan Weakley

Greg Wilson, North Carolina State University

“Pollination ecology and local adaptation of Echinacea laevigata (Asteraceae) in woodland and open microhabitats at Picture Creek Diabase Barrens.” Advisor: Dr. Alexander Krings


2018 Tom and Bruce Shinn Grant Recipients

Katherine Culatta, North Carolina State University

“Taxonomy, population genetics, and status assessment of Nuphar sagittifolia (Nymphaeaceae)” Advisor: Dr. Alexander Krings

Laura Hamon, North Carolina State University

“Pollination ecology of Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula).” Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Irwin

Bryan Piatkowski, Duke University

“Systematics, molecular evolution, and functional trait variation in the Sphagnum magellanicum (Sphagnaceae) species complex.” Advisor: Dr. Jon Shaw

Ellen Quinlan, Western Carolina University

“Phylogenetic history and variation in water-use efficiency of mountain and coastal populations of Kalmia buxifolia.” Advisor: Dr. Katherine Mathews

Marietta Shattelroe, Appalachian State University

“Genetic diversity of Geum geniculatum.” Advisor: Dr. Matt C. Estep

Alexandria Szakacs, North Carolina State University

“Reconstructing the vegetation history of a Piedmont prairie remnant using soil phytoliths.” Advisor: Dr. Alexander Krings


2017 Tom and Bruce Shinn Grant Recipients

Ashley M. Dow, East Carolina University

“Native plants as viable pollinator habitat on solar panel farms in eastern North Carolina.” Advisor: Dr. Claudia Jolls


2016 Tom and Bruce Shinn Grant Recipients

Andrea Thompson, North Carolina State University

Solidago spithamaea: Study in Population Viability.” Advisor: Dr. Gary B. Blank

Rachel Kelsy Stillwell, Western Carolina University

“Microsatellite marker optimization and gene flow analysis between species of the erectum complex of Trillium.” Advisor: Dr. Katherine Mathews


2015 Tom and Bruce Shinn Grant Recipients

Michelle D’Aguillo, Duke University

“Germination ecology of two southern Appalachian natives, Houstonia caerulea and H. serpyllifolia (Rubiaceae).” Advisor: Dr. Kathleen Donohue

Rebecca M. Dalton, Duke University

“Changes to flowering phenology in native wildflower communities in North Carolina.” Advisor: Dr. William F. Morris

Gary Perlmutter, North Carolina State University

“Traffic Emissions Effects on Forest Lichen Communities in North Carolina.” Advisor: Dr. Gary Blank


2014 Tom and Bruce Shinn Grant Recipients

Reneé Fortner, East Carolina University

“The Reproductive Ecology of the Federally Endangered Cooley’s Meadowrue (Thalictrum cooleyi Ahles).” Advisor: Dr. Claudia Jolls

Kipp Callahan, North Carolina State University

“The Vascular Flora of Pondberry Bay (Sampson County, NC).” Advisor: Dr. Alexander Krings

Nathan Howell, North Carolina State University

“The Vascular Flora of the Natural Lake Shoreline Community of Carolina Bays in the Carolina Flatwoods and Mid-Atlantic Floodplains and Low Terraces Ecoregions (Bladen and Columbus Counties, North Carolina).” Advisor: Dr. Alexander Krings


2013 Tom and Bruce Shinn Grant Recipients

Amanda Faucette, North Carolina State University

“The Vascular Flora and Soils of Buxton Woods (Dare County, NC).” Advisor: Dr. Alexander Krings

Kyle Palmquist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“The joint effects of drought and reduced fire frequency on native orchids in the Green Swamp Preserve, North Carolina.” Advisor: Dr. Alan Weakley