Allegheny Senior Awarded Grant for Environmental Research

Allegheny College senior Alexandrea Rice has been awarded a Davey Foundation Annual Arbor Grant for her work in eco-friendly research. Rice is an environmental science major, with a focus in forest and soil science, and a geology minor.

“The award is a testament to Alex’s work as an undergraduate in (Professor) Rich Bowden’s lab on a green-industry approach to forestry and arboriculture,” says Scott Wissinger, chair of Allegheny’s Environmental Science Department.

The Davey Tree Expert Co. provides the grants yearly to about 50 college-enrolled students who focus on forestry, agriculture or another green industry. Over the past 25 years, the Davey Foundation has provided more than $500,000 of support to students for their academic work.

Rice says the $1,000 grant has allowed her to be more focused on her studies without having to take time away for a job. She is currently developing her senior comprehensive project, which investigates how acid rain affects soil’s ability to retain important forest nutrients. Bowden, her advisor, says Rice has been highly independent, praising how she “has been industrious in gathering her field soil samples and performing soil extractions.”

Rice has participated in projects outside of Allegheny as well, such as spending a semester at the Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and working as a research assistant in Alaska in the summer of 2016. She also has worked on an independent research project looking into changes in fungal communities in response to nitrogen deposition, both at the Harvard Forest and Allegheny’s Bousson Experimental Forest.

“She is passionate about forest ecosystems and has always been among the first to volunteer for fieldwork related to our climate-change studies,” Bowden says. “She brings an inquisitive personality blended with a delightful confidence, sincere humility and spunk.”

After graduation, Rice plans to attend graduate school. But she hopes first to spend the summer of 2017 conducting climate-change research on the effects of permafrost thaw on ecosystem nutrient cycling.

“Out of all the good that a person can do, I think the most a person can contribute is to the knowledge and understanding of the planet so that we can enact ways of prolonging its life,” says Rice, a Pittsburgh resident. “I am in this industry and science not just because I enjoy being outside in the forest, but because I want to educate the world about the importance and critical role that forests play in our lives. By protecting them we are providing a future for our children to grow from.”