From IWU Magazine, Summer 2013 edition
From Lab to Prairie
Anna Groves '11 continues her environmental studies with help from NSF fellowship.
Anna Groves '11 earned a fellowship that will cover her tuition for three years as
she seeks a Ph.D. in plant biology.
In March, Anna Groves ’11 (shown at right) received a prestigious National Science
Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship will cover Groves’ tuition
for three years of her doctoral program at Michigan State University, along with a
stipend. Only 2,000 such fellowships were awarded from over 13,000 applications.
Anna began pursuing her Ph.D. in plant biology at Michigan State after graduating
magna cum laude from Illinois Wesleyan. She was also named outstanding student in
environmental studies at IWU and was selected Phi Beta Kappa.
While at Illinois Wesleyan, Anna conducted a research project analyzing population
levels of red-tailed hawks and American kestrels and their relation to latitude using
five years of winter raptor survey data.
During her time at IWU, she also worked four seasons in Illinois and Nevada as a research
technician or field assistant “where I became fascinated by the way in which the plant
community acts as an interesting and practical foundation for projects aimed at restoration
and conservation,” says Anna.
“My summer work with the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory has had the strongest influence
in bringing me to where I am today. My inspiration for my current research questions
definitely stems from the patterns I saw in the natural areas in Illinois that we
R. Given Harper, George C. and Ella Beach Lewis Endowed Chair of Biology at Illinois
Wesleyan, served as her undergraduate research advisor. “Anna is a very impressive
student, and she is very deserving of this prestigious fellowship,” says Harper. “I
am confident she has the potential to make significant contributions in restoration
At Michigan State, Anna studies plant biology in the Brudvig Lab. The lab’s central
research uses basic ecological concepts to inform restoration practices, while using
restoration as a system to learn more about ecology.
“I’m broadly interested in why restoration projects don’t always turn out the way
we want them to,” says Anna. “If we can’t rebuild an ecosystem, then we don’t know
enough about its ecology.”
Anna’s research focuses on factors considered to have a negative impact on the plant
community, such as invasive species or agricultural land use legacies, as well as
those considered to be positive, such as ecological restoration and land management.
“I hope to better understand how these factors work together to mold plant community
composition and function in order to promote effective land management decisions,”
Among the questions she is examining is whether the establishment phase of a restoration
(clearing existing vegetation and then seeding a prairie, for example) or the later
ongoing management (burning or manual brush removal in the prairie) has a greater
impact on restoration outcomes.
“Both are known to be important, but sorting out the effects of each and the interaction
between the two will have important implications for land managers with limited resources,”
After completing her Ph.D., Anna says she would like to continue doing research for
a nonprofit or perhaps a government agency.
To learn more about IWU's Environmental Studies Program, click here.