The American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) has selected Oklahoma State University doctoral student Angela McDonnell as the 2017 recipient of the George R. Cooley Award, considered one of the most prestigious early-career honors offered in the field of plant sciences.
The award, named after a successful banker who was interested in plants and conservation, goes to a graduate student whose work is judged to be substantially complete, synthetic, original and presented in a clear and engaging manner. McDonnell made her presentation at the annual international botany conference, Botany 2017, which was held this year in Fort Worth.
McDonnell’s research used cutting-edge molecular and computational methods to uncover the evolutionary history of the group of plants she studied, and has immediate applications in furthering understanding of North American plant diversity. Dr. Alan Weakley, author of “Flora of Southern and Mid-Atlantic States,” lauded McDonnell’s work on a plant group that botanists in those regions have found taxonomically problematic since at least the 1840s, applauding her “formidable array of techniques implemented with hard work.”
McDonnell’s conference talk, titled “Phylogenomics and Evolution of New World Milkweed Vines (Gonolobinae) and Resurrection of Chthamalia: A Genome Skimming and Targeted Enrichment Approach,” focused on elements of her dissertation work, which was accomplished in coauthor and graduate adviser Dr. Mark Fishbein’s lab at OSU as a part of the Milkweed Genome Project.
One outcome of McDonnell’s research is that the name for an entire genus of plants (Chthamalia) initially published in 1841 has been “resurrected” after falling out of use in the first half of the 20th century.
A 2007 graduate of Edgewood College, McDonnell successfully defended her doctoral thesis at OSU on July 3 and recently accepted the David Burpee Postdoctoral Fellowship at Bucknell University.