By Emma Wilson, CALS Communication Service
Its no surprise Zoe Pritchard was named a 2018 Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention.
A junior double majoring in biology and environmental studies, the CALS student has put countless hours of research, academic achievements and studying and research abroad.
“The Goldwater scholarship program is one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, students targeting a future career in research,” says Laura Good, the university’s honors program coordinator.
The Goldwater Scholarship Program is a nationwide scholarship program that seeks to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming the next generation of research leaders.
“Being named an honorable mention is a huge plus for students applying to graduate school, given the prestige and industry recognition the award holds,” says Good. “The application process forces candidates to think thoroughly and clearly to express their future goals.”
Pritchard developed a passion for researching bees and the outdoors long before starting her adventure at Iowa State.
As an honors student and native of Ames, she started her own research, working in an ISU entomology laboratory the summer before her freshman year.
“I grew up with an appreciation for both insects and preserving the natural world around us,” says Pritchard. “It really motivated me to pursue something in conservation work.”
For the past two and a half years, Pritchard has continued her passion of researching pollinators under the direction of her academic adviser, associate professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, Amy Toth, as well as Ph.D. student Ashley St. Clair.
Toth’s team is examining the potential benefits of using native, perennial habitats to improve bee health in the cultivated landscapes of Iowa. To address the issue of declines in numbers of native bee species, Toth’s team studies factors impacting honey bee and wild bee populations.
“Zoe has been working to study wild bee health, diversity, and abundance in both prairies and agricultural fields as well as in the presence and absence of honey bees in Iowa,” says Toth.
Pritchard has developed numerous skills during her time as researcher, including field inspections of beehives, collecting and paint-marking bees for lab analyses, learning to organize, pin and identify specimens of numerous wild bee species.
“One of the things that amazes me about Zoe is her never-ending passion for life,” says St. Clair. “I feel lucky to be her mentor. Her positive attitude is refreshing and reminds me why I love doing what I do.”
She has naturally excelled in her field of life science research. In the spring and summer of 2017, Pritchard studied abroad at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where she took classes in bee biology and French. Pritchard connected with a researcher there and conducted research projects related to ant and honey bee behavior.
“I was really impressed when Zoe continued to advance her interest in bee research while abroad,” says Toth. “Zoe stands out as one of the most motivated and academically excellent undergraduate students I have worked with in over 15 years of experience in teaching and mentoring. She has clearly defined interests in conservation biology and bees, and has steadfastly pursued these interests with unwavering focus, energy, and devotion for three years in a row,” says Toth.
Pritchard says the Goldwater scholarship application process was intense, but she says it really helped her to articulate her career goals and develop experience in applying for grants.
Pritchard says pollinators impact more than a third of the world’s production, making the current global decline in bee populations alarming. Maintaining a diverse pollinator community will ensure agricultural viability for future generations. Pritchard intends to pursue this career to address the vital issue.
“After earning my bachelor’s degree, I hope to pursue graduate school to continue studying bee health and diversity,” says Pritchard.
April 9, 2018