​​Standout Scholarship to Forestry & Wildlife Standout Student

“I just got an ASB Travel Award!” That was the text Hannah Mullally wrote to her graduate advisor, Charles Kwit, upon hearing the news that she had received the first of what turned out to be two awards to attend the Association of Southeastern Biologists conference in Montgomery, Alabama, to present some of her MS thesis results. Though it may have been the first time Hannah received monetary recognition to showcase her academic accomplishments, it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to articulating her academic and professional performance.

In April, the University of Tennessee Graduate School awarded Hannah with its Shipley-Swann Graduate School Fellowship. Hannah embodies the spirit of the award, which is given to students whom it deems have high potential for academic and career success. Her undergraduate successes as a summa cum laude graduate from Creighton University notwithstanding, it has been Hannah’s academic and professional performance in and out of the classroom in her short time here at UT that has not only thoroughly impressed her department (FWF), but numerous other colleagues, as well. Having gained undergraduate research experience with insect pollinators (butterflies in a prairie system), Hannah came to UT to continue her work on pollinators. Unlike many graduate students in the department, she was given a blank slate to pursue this broad topic in a forested system in western North Carolina, where colleagues of her graduate advisor were investigating the effects of small-scale silviculture on plants and wildlife.

To prepare herself for her graduate work, in the summer of 2016, Hannah applied and was admitted to a highly selective Hymenopteran course at Highlands Biological Station, where she learned identification skills and the natural history of hundreds of hymenopterans, which include some of the most challenging pollinators to identify: bees. She simultaneously spent her summer collecting data on pollinator communities in her study system and recently presented some of her preliminary findings as part of her well-received research proposal presentation to FWF in February. This work, which highlights how small-scale timber harvests affect bee diversity and abundance, is currently being compiled, and a manuscript will be submitted by the end of the year.

Since enrolling at UT, Hannah has continued to excel in the classroom (4.0 GPA). This has included mastering material in the fields of ecology and statistics. Her accomplishments in the classroom are matched by ambitions to succeed in her thesis work and in her future career in conservation biology. In these regards, she has applied for the Garden Club of America’s Board of Associates Centennial Pollinator Fellowship, which would fund a unique follow-up study of pollinator effectiveness in her study system, and she currently interns with the National Parks Conservation Association, where she is interacting with numerous stakeholders on black bear-related projects in the Great Smoky Mountains. Last but not least, Hannah serves as a mentor in her advisor’s lab. There, she has trained undergraduates in insect identification and curation for different projects in the lab, which speaks to her ability to transfer her passions to others.

Summing up her impacts in his laboratory alone, FWF assistant professor Charles Kwit says, “I’m so fortunate to have Hannah in my lab, and I'm so happy to see her gaining recognition for her great work!”

The Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries is excited that Hannah Mullally has been awarded the Shipley-Swann Graduate School Fellowship and will be pleased to follow her progress ahead. We know that the currently impressive list of Hannah’s accomplishments will continue to grow as she continues her university study. 

At a poster presentation, Hanna Mullally stands ready to share specifics on her pollinator research.