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Friday, August 19, 2022

UF student wins $2,000 grant for invasive species work

A UF student received a research grant from the Weed Science Society of America for her work with invasive species.

Rachel Watson, a UF entomology and nematology senior, was awarded the $2,000 grant at the beginning of February, but got confirmation April 2 that the budget was approved and she could use the money, she said.

The grant will be used to continue her research on an insect, psyllid Calophya latiforceps, that could potentially control and suppress the Brazilian pepper-tree, an invasive tree species growing throughout Florida.

Watson’s research aims to prove that biological control agents like the insect do not have a preference between male and female plants. This theory would help manage the Brazilian pepper-trees, which have male and female flowers on separate plants.

The 22-year-old said she thinks her writing ability and three years of experience helped her win the grant. She said her mentors — UF professor James Cuda and UF doctoral student Patricia Prade — also helped her through the writing process.

Prade said Watson’s achievement is significant because the competition was tough.

Watson said she was surprised to win the grant because she is hard on herself. She didn’t expect it.

“It shows me that all the work I’ve put into what I’m passionate about is coming back, and I can reap the benefits,” she said.

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