Plymouth State University (PSU) graduate student Hannah Vollmer, of Thornton, NH, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, the first PSU student to achieve this honor. Vollmer was recognized both for her promise as an early-career scientist and her research on two rare alpine plants in the White Mountains of New Hampshire: dwarf mountain cinquefoil, or Robbins’ cinquefoil, which exists nowhere else in the world but above the tree line in the White Mountains, and sibbaldia, which is typically found in Arctic regions.
“Hannah has earned every bit of this recognition for her innovative research and dedication to conservation efforts,” said Diana Jolles, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Botany, Plymouth State University. “We are thrilled she will have the resources she needs to focus on her research, which will help with conservation and preservation efforts in the region, serving as an example for how students can use research to solve real-world problems.”
Alpine plants in the White Mountains are remnants of glaciers that receded more than 13,000 years ago. Vollmer’s research on the dwarf mountain cinquefoil seeks to provide evidence of the plant cloning itself by producing seeds without fertilization, or of genetic diversity and its evolution, which will ultimately help develop strategies for managing the rare plant. Her research will also determine if the sibbaldia that grow in the White Mountains are genetically related to the sibbaldia plant found in Arctic climates, including Norway, Siberia and Alaska, and will inform efforts on how to best cultivate the plant locally.
Vollmer is also one of two grant recipients from the New England Botanical Club this year; she also received a grant from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists for this research. Both organizations award graduate research grants to help students conduct fieldwork, herbarium studies and laboratory research. The New England Botanical Club focuses its grant on students researching New England flora, while the American Society of Plant Taxonomists support students conducting research in any area of plant systematics.
“I was inspired to continue my education after seeing research done at Plymouth State to determine how plant evolution and genetics are related to each other,” said Vollmer. “Working with the professors has allowed me to develop my own research and approach this topic from a conservation mindset. The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and the two additional grants, reflect the support I have received from my professors and peers. I hope to be the first of many NSF Graduate Research Fellows from Plymouth State.”
The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the oldest of its kind in the United States, recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. Recipients receive a generous stipend and allowance for education tuition and fees. Fellows are expected to become knowledge experts who will contribute significantly to research, teaching and innovations in science and engineering well into the future.