College of Agriculture students collect fall 2023 awards

Students in the Auburn University College of Agriculture excelled in statewide, regional and national competitions this fall. Below is a sampling of the prestigious awards garnered by deserving students in our college.

Students place in national agronomy competition

Members of the Auburn Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Club traveled to St. Louis to attend the Students of Agronomy, Soil & Environmental Sciences (SASES) program at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy. Several of the members came back successful in their perspective contests.

Will Rich, senior in crop and soil science production and CSES club treasurer, placed first in the internship poster contest.

Evie Moellering, a senior in environmental science, competed in the undergraduate research symposium and received third place. She also presented this research at the National Botany Conference over the summer.

Steven Mai, a junior in environmental science and CSES historian brought home second place in both the Video Presentation Contest and the Darrel S. Metcalfe Manuscript Contest.

Students receive national weed sciences awards

Students from the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences received awards at the Weed Science Society of America’s national competition. They were part of a student group that Assistant Professors Aniruddha Maity and David Russell led. Their accomplishments are noted in the most recent Southern Weed Science Society’s newsletter.

William Yates placed first in the Undergraduate Individual Calibration.

Wade Reiter placed ninth for the Graduate Award for Top Individual Grad Students.

Annu Kumari was one of three winners of the 2023 Endowment Enrichment Scholarship.

The Auburn team comprising Reiter, Kumari, Akashdeep Singh and Claudia Ann Rutland) placed second for Team Calibration.

These students competed against a total of 217 students contestants from 26 other universities.

Finalists named for three-minute thesis competition

Students competing in the Three Minute Thesis, or 3MT, competition have three minutes to explain their highly technical research to a general audience. The campus community is invited to attend and support the finalists as they present in the final Auburn University competition on Nov.14 from 3-4:30 p.m. in the Melton Student Center Ballroom.

Several students from the College of Agriculture were named finalists this year:

Heather King from the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture & Aquatic Sciences presented on her research titled “Genetic and Reproductive Enhancement in Eastern Oyster.”

Dorcas Lukwesa from the Department of Horticulture presented on her research titled “Mitigating Kale Salinity Stress with Split-Root Technique.”

Abdelaal Shehata from the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology presented on research titled “Full Genome Sequencing of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus Infecting Peanut in Alabama.”

Bankole represents AERS across campus and nation

Master’s student Omolola Bankole from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology was selected as a student scholar for the 12th annual Women in Agribusiness Summit in September as a student scholar sponsored by John Deere Financial.

The Women in Agribusiness Summit is a national event where the sharing of business knowledge and industry innovations is at the forefront of helping women excel in the sector. Attendees benefit from presentations on the latest trends, outlooks and innovations in agriculture, and enjoy unparalleled networking opportunities with influential executives, and spot-on professional development.

Bankole was also recently a College of Agriculture Graduate Research Poster winner and had her research selected for presentation at the Southern Agricultural Economics Association meeting in February 2024.

Steffensmeier wins national research award

In the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, master’s student Nate Steffensmeier won the 2023 North American Sturgeon & Paddlefish Society’s In-Memoriam Research Award.

The $2,500 award will further support his thesis research and was awarded at the society’s annual meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in August.

Animal Science graduate students to represent department in Canada

Two graduate students from the Department of Animal Science received awards to support international travels in 2024.

Cody Brown and Audrey Craner are recipients of the Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative Student Conference Travel Award. They will use the funds to travel to the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Animal Science, Canadian Society of Animal Science and the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, July 21-25, 2024.

Brown will present his work on molecular biomarkers of heifer fertility, while Craner will present on the impact of maternal mineral nutrition on fetal jejunum development.

Boyd wins top prize at national competition

Kayla Boyd won Best Student Presentation at the 44th annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, North America.

Her presentation titled “PFAS Bioaccumulation, Depuration, and Associated Energetic Costs in the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica” won the Best Ph.D. Student Presentation at the meeting.

A total of 122 students who applied for the program were found eligible and then abstracts associated with those applications were scored by three judges each. Presentations of the top 30 scoring abstracts were judged during the meeting. At the meeting, three judges reviewed each presentation, and the scores were averaged to identify the winners.

Donohoo wins international graduate student research award

Graduate student Sam Donohoo received the Graduate Student Research Award from the Society of Systematic Biologists.

The Society of Systematic Biologists is an international society that emphasizes the advancement of systematic biology in all its aspects of theory, principles, methodology, and practice, for both living and fossil organisms.

The Graduate Student Research Award is highly competitive. These grants are for the collection of preliminary data or to enhance dissertation research — such as by visiting additional field collection sites or museums.

Donohoo is working on the systematics and population genomics of freshwater snails in the Southeastern U.S. for her Ph.D. dissertation. She said applying for the SSB Graduate Student Research Award taught her how to apply for grant funding and led her to refine two dissertation chapters during her first year.

“This past spring, I learned new sequencing techniques to generate preliminary data for previously collected samples of Lithasia, a genus of rock snails, from Alabama, Illinois, Ohio, and Mississippi,” Donohoo said. “I also learned several new methods of data analysis and over the summer conducted some testing to determine which set of enzymes will produce the largest amount of genomic data for freshwater snails.

“This October, Dr. Whelan and I conducted extensive fieldwork in Tennessee and collected samples of Lithasia and other pleurocerid snails from 45 locations along the Duck River, Red River, Harpeth River, East of Fork of the Stones, and the Sequatchie River.”

They have tentatively identified all samples and are working on DNA extractions for roughly 850 specimens of Lithasia. The plan to is finish extractions and library preparations in the upcoming spring and get samples sent off for sequencing before summer.

Horticulture students rake in prizes

A number of students from the Department of Horticulture won statewide, regional, national and international awards in fall 2023.

Graduate student Mel Hill placed in the Charlie Parkerson Student Research Competition from the International Plant Propagator’s Society.

Fellow graduate student Zoila Chavez was selected for the 2023 Career Pathways Summer Internship Program with the International Fresh Produce Association.

Meanwhile, undergraduate Landon Erbrick received the following national scholarships: Proven Winners/Spring Meadow Scholarship; National Garden Club Scholarship; Deep South Garden Club Scholarship; Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship; and the American Floral Endowment Scholarship.

Joshua Fain was selected the Student Ambassador to the National Association of Landscape Professional’s Elevate Conference on behalf of Auburn University.

Several Auburn students were recognized by the Southern Region of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Jarrett Price placed first and Kati Kent third in the Norman Childers M.S. Graduate Student Paper Competition. Price also placed second and Jessica Paranhos first in the Warren S. Barham Ph.D. Graduate Student Paper Competition. Finally, Price placed first in the Three-Minute M.S. Poster Presentation Competition, Fruit Crops Working Group.

At the CEA Summit East 2023, Nelda Hernandez-Martinez placed first in the Graduate Student Competition.

Kyle Owsley placed second in the poster competition at the Science of Hemp meeting’s poster competition, as well.

Finally, Savannah Busby was awarded the Jimmy Witt Memorial Scholarship from the Alabama Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association.


Congratulations to all those College of Agriculture students who represented our college well this year. We’re proud of your accomplishments.


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Dec 15, 2023 | News, Student Research

<p><a href="" target="_self">Kristen Bowman</a></p>

Kristen Bowman

Kristen Bowman is a communications and marketing specialist with the College of Agriculture. She received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Auburn University and loves reading and spending time with her husband and two children.

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