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2019 Project Proposal

Plant Biodiversity at Vassar and in Iceland

Mark Schlessman (Biology)

Documenting existing biodiversity is essential for effective management of biological preserves.  This project will focus on plant biodiversity at two locations, the Vassar College Ecological Preserve (VCEP) and the Skálanes Nature and Heritage Centre in Iceland (  For plants, documenting biodiversity takes the form of herbarium collections.  For the first two to three weeks of URSI, we’ll focus on the VCEP and learn how to collect, press, dry, label, and mount herbarium specimens.  Then we’ll travel to Iceland, spending four to five weeks making collections at Skálanes.  Then we’ll return to Vassar for the final weeks of URSI.

Demonstrated interest in botany / conservation biology / ecology / field biology is essential.  Prior experience with plant identification, prior relevant course work (e.g. BIOL 208, BIOL 241, ENST 124), and experience driving a manual transmission vehicle are desirable but not essential.  Must have a passport that is valid at least through December 2019.  Must be comfortable traveling, working outdoors in lousy weather, and living in rustic conditions.  In Iceland, we'll be living in a hostel-like facility; sharing sleeping quarters, meals and meal preparation with other visiting scientists and students.  If you have strict dietary requirements, don't apply.

How should students express interest in this project?
If you're interested in this project, please email me to arrange an interview (  Do this as soon as possible, even before you've submitted your written application.  In your application, please affirm that you have a valid passport, be specific about your prerequisites and skills, and also give me an example of how you've handled a difficult group living or group project situation in the past.