Mary A. Bancroft Memorial Scholarship
2013 Recipient: Shelly Wiggam
- Doctorate student
- Department of Entomology
- Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
The effects of patch-burn grazing on plant and pollinator diversity, demographic responses and resource use in the Flint Hills of Kansas
Personal Interest in Plants
I learned to drive a tractor and drill native grass seed at eleven years of age so I could restore fescue pasture back to native grasses. Since then, my main goal in life has been to do whatever I can to restore and conserve tallgrass prairie. Throughout junior high and high school, I continued to reseed pasture and maintain native prairie for family and friends. Moreover, I participated in numerous volunteer days with various organizations to maintain and restore non-agricultural prairie remnants, and was a permanent volunteer with The Nature Conservancy–Texas.
In college, my interest in prairie conservation and grassland research continued to grow, and I took every opportunity afforded to me to work with others to reclaim and maintain tallgrass plant and wildlife habitat throughout my three degree programs (Biology, Environmental Studies, and Art). Concurrently, I began to intensively study the Great Plains prairie ecosystems and their organisms and management, and became particularly interested in plant-pollinator interactions, grassland fire ecology, and grazer interactions. My studies and volunteer work lead to several opportunities to conduct ecological research, where I gained a good working knowledge of the plant and pollinator species of the tallgrass prairie, various plant, insect and bird population surveying techniques, and grassland prescribed burning and implementation procedures. My M.S. degree focused on the pollination and floral scent biology of Phlox divaricate L. (Polemoniaceae), where I learned many new pollination biology techniques and published two scientific articles. During this time, I also volunteered as a land steward for The Nature Conservancy–Kansas at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Cassoday, KS.
I started my own native tallgrass prairie and wildlife restoration business in the Flint Hills of northern KS immediately after receiving my M.S. degree. I consulted on and implemented all restoration/reclamation projects myself, including woody vegetation removal, burning, and native grass seeding, while being a intermediary between private landowners and governmental agencies. I chose to go back and pursue a Ph.D because I learned through interactions with my customers that the newest generation of farmers and ranchers of the Flint Hills want organismal biologists to study their management systems and help them decide what is best not only for their profit margins, but for the native ecosystem from which they make their living. Simply stated, I want to effect change on a larger scale than possible through small business, as well as be an advocate for land steward farmers and ranchers.