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Dear Ms. Sandstrom,
I wish to express my deep gratitude for the Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association graduate scholarship that I was awarded in the spring of 2010. This scholarship allowed me to study how drought and climate change will affect the forests of the western United States.
Waves of large-scale forest mortality have crossed the West in the last decade, heralded by hotter temperatures and severe drought. My research focuses on a recent forest die-off, Sudden Aspen Decline, which affects nearly a fifth of aspen trees in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. While drought and climate change are thought to play the primary role in inducing this dieback, we currently do not know how drought kills forests, nor the underlying physiological mechanisms which are critical to predicting mortality and managing forests to prevent mortality.
This scholarship was critical for the success of the research. The generous support of the Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association allowed me to monitor aspen trees during drought stress in summer 2010 to test the dominant hypotheses about drought-induced mortality.
While the mystery of what’s happening to the emblematic tree of the West is still unraveling, the research supported by the scholarship will greatly advance our understanding of how trees respond to drought.
I published an article this spring in the High Country News, found here, that highlights this research, as well as my perspective as a native Colorado resident returning to the forests I grew up in and finding them dying.
Received October 2010
Dear Ms. Sandstrom,
In 2007, I was the recipient of the Elizabeth B. Reed Memorial Scholarship from PBKNCA. I wanted to take a moment to thank you and the rest of the Association for this award, which came at a critical time in my graduate career and was a major factor in enabling me to achieve my goals. I completed my PhD at Stanford in June of this year. In September will begin a three-year term as a Junior Fellow at Harvard University.
My research over the past several years has focused on ecological questions in Australia and rural Kenya. In Australia, I worked the ecology and conservation biology of that continent's most endangered snake. My colleagues and I attempted to understand both why this species is threatened and what might be done to conserve it. In Africa, I worked on a variety of issues, ranging from how termites provide a template for the patterning of African savannas to the impacts of large mammalian herbivore species on savanna communities (and the corresponding question: what might happen if these large- mammal species go extinct?)
The support I received from PBKNCA was invaluable in enabling me to see these projects through, and I am profoundly grateful. Your scholarship program is truly a service.
Links to coverage of Rob's work can be found on his website
Received September 2009
Robert Pringle was one of our Scholarship awardees in 2007, receiving a grant of $5,000 to further his research. He graduated from University of Pennsylvania, received two MSc degrees with distinction from Oxford University, and is a graduate student in ecology at Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology.
At present he's working in Kenya with Professor Todd Palmer of the University of Florida, studying "mutualism." The ΦBKNCA grant helps support him in this research.
The thorny acacia trees of East Africa live in close harmony with ant colonies, and each depends on the other for health and survival - but disrupting that relationship can lead to death and danger, scientists have discovered.
And that, they say, could threaten the habitats of Africa's largest animals in many regions of the continent.
Normally, the huge swollen thorns on the branches of the scrubby trees provide housing for the ants, and they feed on rich nectar from the base of the acacia leaves. In exchange, the tiny biting insects guard and protect the trees by swarming out to repel big browsers like elephants and giraffes that would otherwise feed destructively on the acacia leaves.
The entire article was in the "San Francisco Chronicle", January 11, 2008, main section, "Tiny changes can trigger big evolutionary shifts," by David Perlman (Chronicle Science Editor), p. 6 (in dead-trees version), or online.
Received January 2008
Dear Ms. Sandstrom,
I write to express my gratitude to Phi Beta Kappa and its scholarship program, on the occasion of some good news I've recently received.
Here's the situation: in the summer of 1997 I received a Phi Beta Kappa scholarship which allowed me to finish my dissertation, in Russian history at Berkeley. I was thrilled and honored and grateful, and finished the dissertation, but I'm not sure I ever communicated how important that support was, or what its fruits were.
Last year, my revised dissertation became a book, *The House in the Garden: The Bakunin Family and the Romance of Russian Idealism*. It was published by Cornell University Press. I'm gratified to say that it has just won one major award and received honorable mention for another, both given by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies:
In a few days, the AAASS will be sending notification of this fact to you at Phi Beta Kappa. But I wanted to write ahead of this fact, both to remind you of the connection and to thank you in your capacity as vice president for scholarships for the wonderful and important work you do. Sometimes it takes a while for this to come to fruition, but these scholarships mean a lot to the people who receive them!
I don't know if you have a library of works produced with PBK money, but if you do, I would be very happy to send you a copy of this book. Or if you just want one for yourself, do let me know!
In the meantime, please accept again my gratitude.
Received October 2008