Oxy Junior Awarded EPA Fellowship
Joseph Statwick, a junior biology major, has been awarded a prestigious Environmental Protection Agency fellowship to study genetic diversity among populations of Hesperoyucca whipplei (commonly known as yucca) in the Los Angeles Basin. The award is worth more than $41,000.
“I feel really great about winning,” Statwick said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for me and my family. I'm excited to have the opportunity and funding to be able to do a research project of this magnitude.”
Working with associate professor of biology Elizabeth Braker, Statwick plans to study factors threatening the survival of local native plants, such as the encroachment of European grasses. Other threats include pollution and habitat reduction due to urban development and suburban sprawl.
“Specifically, I want to address how genetic diversity in H. whipplei has been affected by both air pollution and habitat loss/fragmentation, and how these two factors might interact,” he wrote in his award-winning proposal. His methods will include field mapping several yucca populations and use of the College’s Geographic Information System to create a map with population and air pollution data. He also plans to use seeds collected in 2005 and 2006, and collect additional seeds in 2007, to conduct a survey of genetic diversity.
For the last two years Statwick has worked with Braker on tropical rainforest reforestation and ecology in Costa Rica. “She was very helpful in the development stages of the project and continues to be so in the setup phase I'm going through now,” Statwick said.
“Joe has the right blend of field and lab skills to undertake this project. I'm thrilled that we have the opportunity to support him in this important work,” Braker said.
The Wheaton, Ill. resident is minoring in geology and music and plays drums in a campus rock band in his spare time.