Grand Valley alumna to study carnivorous plants in Asia

Rachel Schwallier
Rachel Schwallier
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Rachel Schwallier, ’04, has received a prestigious P.E.O. Scholar Award to support her doctoral work at Leiden University and Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

Schwallier studies the diversification of one of the most intriguing groups of plants in the world -- carnivorous pitcher plants. Her project aims to gain insight into the unique adaptations of these tropical species to their natural environment, and how they will cope with climate change. 

Pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes have liquid-filled pitchers in spectacular shapes and forms focused on trapping animal prey. The 140 species of tropical pitcher plants do this with complex interactions with animals, including carnivory on insects and sometimes even rats, along with many other mammal, bird, and insect interactions.

Schwallier will collect data and specimens through expeditions to isolated regions deep in the forests of Southeast Asia, and will record information for climate models and collect samples for wood analysis. The research is important to applied conservation planning that will help preserve these unique tropical plants.

The P.E.O. Scholar Award was established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral level degree at an accredited college or university. The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded in 1869 at Iowa Wesleyan College, is a philanthropic education organization interested in bringing increased opportunities for higher education to women. There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.