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The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies

For Graduate Students and Advanced Undergraduates

The Garden Club of America Award in Desert Studies was established to promote the study of horticulture, conservation and design in arid landscapes. The award, which can be in the form of either an internship or funding for a research related topic, is for advanced undergraduate and graduate students studying horticulture, conservation, botany, environmental science and landscape design relating to the arid landscape.

Students must be enrolled at an accredited U.S. college or university. While the award is intended to have a wide scope pertaining to the arid environment, preference will be given to students wishing to gain practical field experience -- specifically, planning and design for sustainability, rainwater harvesting and plant management, etc. -- through structured internships at accredited botanical gardens or arboreta.

Students wishing to intern should contact a local botanical garden to frame a plan of work that will guide both the intern and the garden staff in implementation and monitoring. This plan should include the time period in which the student will be available for internship. The student should also check with the student's advisor office to see if university credit will be given for the internship program, although academic credit is not required.  

Doctoral research field projects will also be considered for the GCA Award in Desert Studies, but will not have funding preference.

At the completion of the internship or proposed project, the student would submit a written report of achievements to both the accredited botanical garden or arboreta and the GCA.

Scholarship Information

Application Information

Candidates should submit the following required information to kzelov@dbg.org, with "GCA Award in Desert Studies" as the subject line:

  1. A current resume that includes:
    • Address, phone and email
    • Educational background including relevant education, work experiences and publications if any
    • Name of a contact person at the accredited botanical garden or arboretum where you would like to complete your internship.  Include a letter from the contact person confirming your acceptance into the program; OR
    • If not applying for an internship, a description of your proposed project
  2. A 1-2 page essay that includes the following:
    1. Your career aspirations
    2. Your specific interests in sustainability in the arid environment and what you hope to achieve through the internship if selected.
  3. Contact information for one reference qualified to describe the student's character and ability
  4. A letter of recommendation from your advisor, using the Academic Advisor Recommendation form (download form as a word document). Letter of recommendation should be completed, signed and sent to:
    Mr. Kenny Zelov
    Desert Botanical Garden
    1201 N. Galvin Parkway
    Phoenix, AZ 85008 

Dates & Award Notifications

Applications must be received by January 15.

Applications will be evaluated by a panel appointed by the Desert Botanical Garden and approved by the GCA scholarship committee. Applications will be judged on the qualifications of the applicant.

Award selection will be completed in early March. The GCA Scholarship Committee will notify the Award recipient by March 31. The Garden Club of America policy conforms with and strongly supports applicable federal and state laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, religion, age, national origin or sexual orientation with regard to the application for any of the scholarships The Garden Club of America sponsors.

The Desert Botanical Garden, Administrator of the Garden Club of America's New Award in Desert Studies, is pleased to announce the 2013 winners!


Anny Chung is a doctoral student in Biology at the University of New Mexico. She received her A.B. in Biology and International Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Anny’s research focuses on interactions between plants and microbes such as fungi associated with plant roots, fungal endophytes in grasses, as well as those in biological soil crusts. It is now recognized that interactions between plants and microbes are ubiquitous in nature, but many questions remain as to the role these interactions play in mediating plant species competition and coexistence. One question she is investigating at the Sevilleta LTER is: How does the presence of biological soil crusts change not just the performance of single plant individuals, but the entire face of plant and arthropod communities?

Biological soil crusts harbor many microbial symbionts that are crucial to nutrient cycling and change physical and chemical properties of surface soils in arid ecosystems. Their functions may not only benefit plant species by increasing carbon and nitrogen inputs, but may also alter competitive hierarchies and community membership. With the help of the GCA Desert Studies Award, Anny has initiated a large-scale crust manipulation experiment at the Sevilleta LTER to answer this question.   


Clemente Rico - Arizona State University, College of  Landscape Architecture

Being an intern at the Desert Botanical Garden was an experience I will never forget. I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with the horticulture department this summer. After working with them, my knowledge about desert plants grew immensely. My goal is to stay in Arizona and design desert landscapes and this internship has opened my eyes to a much larger spectrum of desert botany. I see myself using this knowledge in my college career and also as a professional. One of my favorite parts was learning different ways to propagate desert plants. As I said before, working at the garden was splendid. Every day was a learning day. rations as a landscape architect.

I also had the opportunity to design a proposal for the community garden, called ‘Desert Garden at the DBG.’ This proposal focused in redesigning the perimeter of the garden to provide a better and more aesthetically pleasing garden. Another thing I was able to practice in the garden was the idea of ethnobotany. I had never heard or seen this word, much less the meaning. However, after working with some of the horticulturists who practice this study, I learned it’s all about planting native plants that have several functions. For example plants for shade, food, clothing, tools, etc. Overall, working at the Desert Botanical Garden was amazing and I am very happy I was able to learn so many things which I am sure will help me in my future aspirations as a landscape architect. 


Skyler Flood-Arizona State University College of Landscape Architecture

I grew up Just outside of Prescott, Arizona off the grid living on a small farm that ran off solar and wind. Living on a small farm gave me a passion for plants and the natural landscape, and growing up on solar made me have an understanding for sustainability at a young age along with a passion for it.

My major is Landscape Architecture and I have a minor in Sustainability at Arizona State University. I am interested in using my degree to create natural urban spaces. Growing up in a rural area and moving to the city is what enticed me to focus on designing landscapes in urban areas because I was gifted to live in nature and want to bring that with me to the city for others to experience

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