The Edith Patch Award is given annually to undergraduate and graduate women who have demonstrated scholarship and service in the fields of science, agriculture, engineering, or environmental education, and who show promise for future contribution in those fields. The award is named in honor of the University of Maine’s first woman scientist, Dr. Edith Marion Patch (1876 – 1954), who was an internationally renowned entomologist, environmentalist, and educator in the early twentieth century. It is given by the Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch in celebration of the life and legacy of this eminent Maine woman and in recognition of the accomplishments of the next generation of women at The University of Maine. The award ceremony and reception is co-hosted each year by the Friends of Fogler Library.
The 2016 Edith Patch Award
In a ceremony and reception on April 17, 2016, five University of Maine women were named winners of the 2016 Edith Patch Award. An additional five women earned the designation of Distinguished Nominees.
At the undergraduate level, the Edith Patch Awardee is Savannah Haines, a second-year student in the University of Maine School of Forest Resources (SFR). As a member of the University’s white pine research team, Ms. Haines has contributed to the study of fungal pathogens in white pine, offering innovative approaches to research methodology and data analysis. She has taken a leadership role amongst students in the School of Forest Resources, serving as Chair of the student chapter of the Society of American Foresters and as a member of SFR student volunteers, helping to shape the undergraduate experience within the department. Ms. Haines was co-nominated by William Livingston, Associate Professor and Associate Director of Forest Resources, and Kara K.L. Costanza, Graduate Research Assistant.
At the master’s level, there are two Edith Patch Awardees. Tizezew Sisay was the only woman from her entire state selected to attend forestry school in her native Ethiopia. After completing that diploma and an additional B.S. in economics, along with extensive service to address water access, sanitation, and other environmental and economic issues in her homeland, she has come to the University of Maine School of Forest Resources to pursue studies aimed at improving both environmental conditions and the livelihoods of rural women of Ethiopia. Ms. Sisayʼs thesis research examines the ways womenʼs lives have been affected by deforestation, changing agricultural practices, and related environmental degradation. The aim of this work is to provide information that will contribute to wise environmental, economic, and social policies. Ms. Sisay has also demonstrated commitment to service here in Maine, both as a member of the University of Maineʼs African Student Association, and as a guide for young schoolchildren exploring our local forest habitats. Ms. Sisay was nominated by Associate Professor Jessica Leahy.
Jesica Waller, a master’s degree student in the University of Maine School of Marine Resources, has been an important contributor to research on the population dynamics of one of Maineʼs most commercially and culturally valued marine species. The title of Ms. Wallerʼs thesis is “Impacts of ocean warming and acidification on larval stages of the American lobster”. Her research is groundbreaking, in that it links environmentally induced changes in larvae development, physiology, and behavior, to changes in gene expression. Ms. Wallerʼs work will help determine whether larvae have genetic mechanisms enabling them to adapt to environmental change, a critical understanding to scientists and policy makers addressing the potential impacts of, and responses to, climate change. Ms. Waller has taken her research to the wider world, most notably through her use of media: In February of this year, her photograph of a larval lobster won the 2016 Peopleʼs Choice national photography competition known as the Vizzies (Vizualization Challenge), showing through this single, beautifully delicate image, the fragility of our ocean ecosystem. Ms. Waller was nominated by Research Professor Richard Wahle.
At the doctoral level, there are two Edith Patch Awards given in 2016. Corianne Tatariw is a student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and is among the researchers contributing to the University of Maineʼs long-term study of the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine. Her work focuses on soil microbes, examining microbial response in varied land use types, determining how nitrogen status influences response to other minerals, and how changing snowpack affects microbial communities through winter and transition to spring. Ms. Tatariwʼs findings have contributed to the work of other researchers, and her broader interest in the effects of environmental disturbance have enabled her to reach out to scientists, policy makers, and members of the community concerned about changes in our climate, and our land. Ms. Tatariw was nominated by Associate Professor Jean D. MacRae.
Lisa Weatherly is a doctoral student in the University of Maine’s Molecular and Biomedical Sciences program. Her research focuses on the effects of the common antibacterial agent triclosan on the function of mast cells, ubiquitous cells essential to most physiological processes and diseases in many species, including humans. Ms. Weatherly is a pioneer in employing the super-resolution microscopy technique FPALM, developed by the University of Maineʼs Professor Sam Hess, to investigate molecular mechanisms underlying triclosanʼs effects. Her analyses will contribute to both scientific understanding and consumer protection policy, as the U.S. government has recently called for the evaluation of triclosan’s use and toxicity in common antibacterial products here. Ms. Weatherly was nominated by Associate Professor Julie Gosse.
In addition to the five Edith Patch Award winners, five University of Maine women have been named Distinguished Nominees. They are: Randi Jackson, an undergraduate student in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology; Rebecca Rivernider, an undergraduate in the School of Biology and Ecology; Lisa Izzo, a master’s degree student in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology; Megan Leach, a master’s degree student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences; and Brianne DuClos, a doctoral student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Where are they now?
Featured in 2016
As head of the entomology department for the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station, Edith Patch provided valuable service to the farmers, foresters, and landowners of our state, helping them identify and safely control insect pests. Dr. Patch might be intrigued to know just how many other University of Maine women have followed in her footsteps! Here is just one of them:
Tawny Virgilio earned the Edith Patch Award in 2012, while working toward her master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences at UMaine. Her entomological research applied biosurveillance techniques for detecting presence of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). This invasive insect pest has caused devastation to urban and rural landscapes in many parts of North America. Were it to appear in Maine, it could have serious cultural and economic impacts here. The EAB has a vulnerability, however: It is preyed upon by a native, non-stinging wasp. Tawny’s research demonstrated that monitoring these wasps can provide early evidence of the EAB’s presence in an area, so that methods of control can be implemented before widespread destruction occurs.
Tawny put her knowledge and experience to work when she was employed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Forest Health Program to monitor EAB, as well as the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and other forest insect pests. She was also involved in the department’s program to eradicate the invasive and enormously destructive Asian Longhorned Beetle. In January of this year, the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension announced that Tawny (now Tawny Virgilio Simisky) has joined their staff as Woody Ornamentals Entomology Specialist. In this role, she develops resources and programs for landscapers, arborists, and grounds managers, in addition to providing diagnostic support for the UMass Plant Diagnostic Lab and the Green Industry in Massachusetts.
Featured in 2015
It’s not unusual to hear the lament that Maine’s best and brightest cannot find employment in our state. Two of our past honorees are challenging that assertion and contributing daily to the health of our planet from their Maine-based positions.
In 2012, Margaret Burns earned the Edith Patch Award at the undergraduate level. After graduating from The University of Maine’s Honors College and Ecology and Environmental Sciences program, where her research focused on watershed soils, Maggie completed a masters at the University of Colorado-Boulder and then served as a research assistant studying nitrogen cycling in Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Now back in Maine, Maggie is a hydrologist and project scientist with FB Environmental, a consulting firm that assists with planning, assessment, monitoring, and restoration projects in the watersheds of New England’s lakes, streams, rivers, and estuaries. To read more about the work that Maggie is doing, visit fbenvironmental.com.
Allison Byrd was a Distinguished Nominee for the master’s level Edith Patch Award in 2011. Her research in the School of Biology and Ecology focused on the effect of changes in water quality on reproduction in Common Loons. Her nominator wrote at the time, “I have no doubt that her results will influence wildlife conservation as we struggle to understand how climate change is altering our biological resources.” Allie has fulfilled that prediction. Now a research specialist for Portland-based Biodiversity Research Institute’s Center for Loon Conservation, Allie is one of the nation’s leaders in the field. You can read about the work at briloon.org.
Featured in 2014
There can’t be many American city parks that employ agriculture specialists. Lauren Kolb, however, was lucky enough to discover one. The winner of the 2009 Edith Patch Award for her Doctoral work in sustainable agriculture, Lauren now works as an agriculture specialist for Boulder Colorado’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department. The OSMP comprise more than 45,000 acres of land forming a buffer around the city. The system includes wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, and riparian greenways, with hiking and biking trails, picnicking and fishing areas, and educational programming.
As an agriculture specialist for OSMP, Lauren helps to oversee 14,000 acres of parkland leased by farmers and ranchers. About half the agricultural land is used for production of certified natural beef. Some of the remaining acreage is used for production of organic vegetables, sheep, and other livestock. Several parcels have been allocated for use in research on such topics as organic pest control, crop rotation for soil fertility, and the incorporation of cover crops into traditional wheat-fallow and organic vegetable crop rotations.
For more information about the amazing city park system that has room for an agricultural specialist, visit https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/agriculture-program.