The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

2017 student prizes & research funds


Cash prizes and funds are awarded each year to encourage and recognize creative work and scholarship related to the mission of the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Work and scholarship includes scientific research, interpretive engagement, and artistic and scholarly explorations. For all award decisions the relevance of the work and scholarship are related to the institution’s needs, the students’ academic abilities, and the potential for sustainable impacts.

Each prize and fund has specific eligibility criteria.

  • Currently enrolled U-M undergraduate and graduate students at the Ann Arbor campus are eligible for all prizes and funds. Students enrolled at UM-Dearborn or UM-Flint, as well as other institutions, should see each prize's criteria.
  • Preference is given to students who have not won previously.

Submission Information:

  • Deadline for applications/nominations is midnight Wednesday, February 22, 2017.
    Note: Research Funding for Conservation Studies requires preliminary contact so that feedback can be provided to guide submissions in time to meet the deadline.
  • Decisions will be announced by mid-to-late March.

Expectations of Prize and Fund Awardees
Funds awarded represent the generosity of donors, members, and diverse supporters of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Every awardee is expected to write a personalized letter of acknowledgement that will be shared with the donor / representative. In addition, attendance at an annual Dinner with the Director and donors / representatives is expected if logistically reasonable.

Past Awards
View the 2015 and 2016 Prizes and Awards. For 2017, the scope has been specifically expanded to include scientific research, interpretive engagement, and artistic exploration.

Nanette R. LaCross Prize(s) and William D. Drake Prize(s)
For: U-M Ann Arbor Students in SNRE or PITE
Prize range: $500-2,000

The LaCross Prize honors the student who best exemplifies the spirit of Nanette LaCross who as a lawyer worked tirelessly for women’s rights, animal welfare, and many other environmental concerns.
The Drake Prize honors the student who best exemplifies the spirit of William Drake who as a professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment was dedicated to a variety of environmental concerns at both global and local scales.

These prizes encourage or recognize past, current or proposed work by students in SNRE or PITE who link their studies with the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in some way.

The range of activities encompasses regular volunteering, conducting research or artistic endeavors related to the properties, or participating as student employees at the MBGNA. Special project activities are also appropriate, and examples have included botanical, zoological, or ecological studies; environmental stewardship projects; green technologies and design related to the built environment; environmental art installations; gardening with children; local food production and sustainable agricultural systems.

Students are encouraged to apply directly, but we also accept nominations by fellow students, staff or faculty.


To apply for these prizes you must submit a 1-2 page statement describing past affiliation or proposing some new activity, describing how it has or will contribute to your personal and career goals. Also include a copy of your resume with names of at least three references.


To nominate someone, please submit a short one-paragraph statement about the person you’d like to nominate and their connection to Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. We will then ask the student nominated to submit an application.

Winifred B. Chase Fellowship
For: Enrollment in any of the three U-M campuses required
Award range: $500-2,000

The purpose of this fellowship is to aid students at the University of Michigan (any campus) in research in systematic botany, plant geography, and other phases of botany requiring field study or for the accumulation of plant materials for garden, herbarium, or laboratory investigations.

Restrictions: no UM-School or departmental restriction, but funds typically supporting projects in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB), SNRE, PITE, or other disciplines provided the study focus meets the endowment’s purpose.

Click to apply

To apply for this fellowship, you must submit a description of your proposed study (three-page maximum), a budget, and a copy of your resume with names of at least three references.

Research Funding for Conservation Studies
Award range: $1,500-4,000

Scope of projects: The range of funding ($1,500-4,000) reflects the scope of activities that support scientific research, interpretive engagement, or artistic exploration related to at least one habitat, organism of concern, or conservation issue represented on at least one of our four properties (Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Nichols Arboretum, Mud Lake Bog, and Horner-McLaughlin Woods). Preference may be given to students enrolled at the University of Michigan.

In addition, projects related to sustainable food systems, the Campus Farm, or other issues fundamental to the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative may be considered. These funds can be for individual or team projects, and are especially appropriate for students engaged in an honor’s thesis or project, master’s practicum or thesis, or doctoral dissertation. Current funding priorities include:

  • understanding or interpreting key species’ natural history;
  • promoting the preservation of biodiversity and/or awareness of rare and endangered species;
  • managing / restoring culturally or ecologically significant landscapes;
  • promoting sustainable food systems.

Interested students should submit a short statement of no more than 150 words outlining their proposed project and approximate budget. Submit your statement here. After review, projects of mutual interest may be invited to apply.

view possible research topics

Possible species and habitats for study.

  1. Animals:
    1. Blanding's turtle (Emys blandingii)
    2. Duke's skipper butterfly (Euphyes dukesi)
    3. Indiana brown bat (Myotis sodalis)
    4. Kirtland's snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)
    5. Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)
    6. Redside dace (Clinosomus elongates)
  2. Study of one or more of the rare or conservative plant species found on our properties such as:
    1. Carex: various rare sedges
    2. Dichanthelium leibergii (Leiberg’s panic grass)
    3. Gentiana / Gentianella: Several gentian species
    4. Hypoxis hirsuta (yellow star grass)
    5. Jeffersonia diphylla (twinflower)
    6. Orchids: Several native orchids including ladyslippers
    7. Panax quinquefolius (ginseng)
    8. Ranunculus fascicularis (early buttercup)
    9. Sanguisorba canadensis (American burnet)
    10. Taenidia integerrima (yellow pimpernel)
    11. Trillium flexipes (nodding wake-robin)
  3. Habitats and vegetation types (listed wet to dry)
    1. Naturally occuring
    2. Stream or other aquatic habitats—including Fleming Creek, the Huron River, Mud Lake Bog
    3. Poor conifer swamp
    4. Hardwood-conifer swamp
    5. Inundated shrub swamp
    6. Floodplain forest
    7. Southern wet meadow
    8. Prairie fen
    9. Oak openings/savanna
    10. Dry mesic prairie
    11. Dry mesic southern forest
    12. Human created
    13. Old fields/mixed meadows
    14. Constructed wetlands/bioswales
  4. Possible issues in natural areas management and human-dominated landscapes
    1. Invasive plant species
    2. Deer management
    3. Stormwater runoff and its impacts
    4. Engaging neighbors as management partners
    5. Urban forest management/regeneration
  5. Sustainable food systems projects in conjunction with the Matthaei Botanical Gardens site and the Ginsberg Center Cultivating Community Garden
    1. Arthur Brant Memorial: reflecting lifeways of Great Lakes Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) and Anishinaabe (Potawatomie/Odawa/Chippewa)
    2. Bee / pollinator sanctuary
    3. Campus Farm
    4. Food Forest

To apply for these funds: submit a short (1 paragraph) statement of interest emailed to:

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