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UM Biology Graduate Lands Internship Studying Western Plant Populations

Casey Gill presents some of the research she completed under the direction of biology professor emerita Marjorie Holland. Submitted photo

A recent University of Mississippi alumna who assisted with biological research at the local level has been awarded a prestigious summer internship with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Casey Gill, who received her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences May 11, has been accepted into the 2019 Cooperative Summer Field Training Program. As part of the Colorado Plateau Native Seed Project, the Jackson native will assist project scientists at the Southwest Biological Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Colorado Plateau includes Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

“When I was chosen for an internship through this program, I was so excited to be given the opportunity to do what I love and what I’m interested in,” Gill said. “I believe this internship will allow me to gain valuable experience and knowledge to allow me to continue my career and education as a biologist.”

USGS is working in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program to collect and study wild plant populations in an effort to support future native plant materials development for restoration.

Interns will work with scientists to identify and visit plant populations to collect seeds, plant tissues and other biological data aimed at identifying the environmental and genetic drivers of plant performance and persistence.

“My internship duties will entail collecting biological, botanic, genetic and soil data and/or samples from field locations in grassland and shrub land plant communities across the Colorado Plateau,” Gill said. “I will also perform laboratory analyses to determine specified chemical, biological, genetic or physical characteristics.”

Marjorie Holland, Ole Miss professor emerita of biology and a member of the Ecological Society of America, received an email message about the “ESA-United States Geological Survey Cooperative Summer Internship Program Nomination.” After reading through the information, Holland thought Gill would be a good candidate for the internship.

“Casey has taken my botany course and two directed-study research courses with me at the University of Mississippi Field Station, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs’ satellite research facility, where she was involved in developing hypotheses about plant growth and development, data collection and data interpretation,” Holland said.

“In addition, she took Introductory Ecology with Dr. Steve Brewer and has assisted him with some of his fieldwork in controlled burns at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Society in Holly Springs.”

Originally undecided, Gill opted to major to biology to study what really interested her.

“My experience as a biology major and being chosen for this internship makes me glad that I made that decision,” she said.

By Edwin B. Smith

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