PBKNCA Scholarship winner 2020: Sarah Gaffney, University of California, Davis, Ecology

Sarah Gaffney, a Phi Beta Kappa member and UC Davis graduate student in Ecology, was awarded a PBKNCA scholarship this spring. Read more about Sarah’s work here and watch her video acceptance here!

Sarah is studying California's grasslands, which she notes "are one of the most invaded ecosystems in the world--90% are dominated by Eurasian grasses, with native grasses existing only in remnant populations." Native restoration is taking place across California, but restoration is expensive, and many of these restoration projects fail.

Her research, which focuses on 12-year-old experimental plots, aims to answer the following questions: Is there a time limit to native restoration before the site becomes invaded again? If so, can we predict which non-native species will invade and when? Finally, restoration occurs on previously invaded soil--can changes to the soil caused by invasive species affect restoration success?

Sarah wants to be a scientist who collaborates with managers on issues important to them in order to improve their success rate. To improve her outreach, she joined the board of the California Native Grasslands Association and she is already working to inspire the next generation of scientists in natural resources, by volunteering with the SLEWS organization (Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship). SLEWS partners up a science class from a local high school with restoration practitioners. Sarah acts as mentor to a small group of students, guiding them in a restoration activity such as planting trees or building bird boxes. She really enjoys working with the students, noting, “They are a lot of fun and always impress me with how hard they work. It's a really great program and they're always looking for more mentors, who don't have to be experts in restoration or environmental work.” 

Learn more about Sarah’s work and watch her video acceptance at https://www.pbknca.org/events.awards.php#scholars