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News from the Hilltop

February 16, 2011

Local Birmingham-Southern student documents first instance of wildflower in Jefferson County

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Kate LeCroy of Pleasant Grove, a junior biology major at Birmingham-Southern, has documented the first instance of the Smooth Blue Aster wildflower in Jefferson County while conducting research at the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center.Kate LeCroy of Pleasant Grove

LeCroy's research aimed at documenting plant species in a particular habitat was part of an independent research course she began at Birmingham-Southern in the fall. Her discovery of the Symphyotrichum laeve var. concinnum, or Smooth Blue Aster, was verified by Dan Spaulding, curator of collections at the Anniston Museum of Natural History.

Her research efforts recently were rewarded with the $1,500 Blanche E. Dean Scholarship from the Alabama Wildflower Society. The award will fund her research at the large limestone quarry of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, where she already has conducted a survey of flowering plants for environmental review.

LeCroy, a 2008 graduate of Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School, has been invited to talk about her research at the Alabama Wildflower Society meeting in April.

This past summer, LeCroy received a Preparing Leaders and Nurturing Tomorrow's Scientists (PLANTS) Grant from the Botanical Society of America. She was one of only eight students nationwide selected to receive the grant, which supported her attendance at this year's Botany Conference in Providence, R.I.

"One of the connections she made at that meeting was with the Planting Science program that connects grade school science classes with college-level mentors," said BSC Visiting Professor of Biology Peter Van Zandt, who supervised the independent research course. "This has given Kate a venue to share her newfound enthusiasm for plants and botanical research."

LeCroy also collaborated with Dr. Larry Davenport, professor of biology at Samford University, during her research.

The Dean Scholarship is available to undergraduate and graduate students who are engaged in research in the areas of botany/ecology in Alabama. It honors the late Blanche E. Dean, an educator and environmental activist. A committee selects the recipients based upon the merit of the proposal they submit.

A Harrison Scholar at Birmingham-Southern, LeCroy recently participated in the Literary and Literal Ireland interim travel project at BSC, spending two weeks in Ireland during January with classmates studying Irish literature, history, and culture.

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