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Germination rate, length, and weight differences in native and non-native Ratibida pinnata and Sorghastrum nutans seeds

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Germination rate, length, and weight differences in native and non-native Ratibida pinnata and Sorghastrum nutans seeds
D. Achio, E. Evans, and N. Repreza
Biology Department, Grinnell College, Grinnell IA 50112, USA
An important aspect of tallgrass prairie reconstructions is the origin of the seeds being planted. Our experiment questions whether or not there is a difference in the lengths, weights, and rates of germination in native and non-native Ratibida pinnata (Gray-headed Coneflower) and Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) seeds. We collected samples from the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) near Kellogg, Iowa, which we then measured, weighed, and incubated to test their rates of germination. The results showed that the total weight and length of the non-native S. nutans was significantly greater, and the total weight of the non-native R. pinnata was significantly higher, but the mean length and germination rates of the latter were not significant. The significant variations in seed length and total seed weight support conservationists’ claims that only local seeds should be used in tallgrass prairie reconstruction.
Restoration of tallgrass prairies has existed for almost a hundred years since remnant prairies became more fragmented due to agricultural conversion. Not until the 1970’s has prairie reconstruction become an important environmental concern (Mutel 2007). In recent years, biologists have begun to plant non-local seeds in attempts to increase diversity and plant performance within reconstructed prairies. Wimp et al. (2005) argue that a greater genetic diversity of a dominant plant is beneficial for the entire ecosystem. However, Gustafson (2004) states that genetic differences and ecological performance among local and non-local seeds are more of a concern than diversity. In many prairie remnants, there can already be a great amount of genetic diversity (Gustafson, et al 2004). Therefore, the aim of prairie reconstructions should be the success of the populations, not the genetic diversity of the prairie as a whole (Mutel 2007).
Seed origin not only affects the genetic composition of the population; it also affects the success of the population as a whole. Sanders and McGraw (2005) found that plant populations consisting of seeds from only one source are, on average, more successful, growing larger rhizomes and having a greater leaf area. This result illustrates how prairie reconstructions that use seeds from multiple sources, including non-local sources, could be hindering plants’ net primary production (NPP).
We chose to study two plants species that are present in both prairies: Ratibida pinnata (Gray-headed Coneflower), a forb plant, which is commonly found in dry prairies, and Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) which also commonly grows in dry prairies, open savan-nahs, pastures and fields. R. pinnata and S. nutans’ growing seasons allowed us to collect their seeds because they extend into fall (Ladd and Oberle 2005). Also, S. nutans is a C4 grass commonly found in tallgrass prairies, making our study more relevant to tallgrass prairie reconstructions (Damhoureyeh and Hartnett 2002). R. pinnata has a short germination period which allowed for the completion of our study (Smith 1980).
The S. nutans seed and R. pinnata seedhead samples were collected from the reconstructed Lab Prairie (formerly agricultural land) and the Remnant Prairie at the Conard Environmental Research Center (CERA) located outside of Kellogg, Iowa. The seeds and seedheads from these two prairie sites experienced the same environmental disturbances such as spring fires that occur every three years. The reconstructed prairie used non-local seeds because there were no cultivars nearby in Iowa at the time of the reconstruction in 1987. The grass seeds, for example, were imported from Nebraska (Brown 2009).
In our study, we tried to determine whether the origins of a S. nutans seed or a R. pinnata seedhead has an effect on the seeds’ weight, length, or rate of germination and if these variables indicate significant differences between local and non-local seeds and seedheads. Variances in seeds’ weight, length, or rate of germination would indicate that seeds from one origin are genetically stronger than the other (Wulff 1986, Stanton 1984). We hypothesize that there will be differences in the lengths, total weight, and the percentage rates of germination of native and non-native seeds and seedheads, because tallgrass prairie seeds’ genotypes have evolved over time to specifically suit different environments (Kurtz 2001).
On the 8th and 10th of October, 2009 we took random samples of R. pinnata seedheads and S. nutans seeds from the reconstructed and the remnant prairies in CERA. Then, we measured and weighed the seeds and seedheads of all samples. Finally, we measured the samples’ rates of germination.
On each prairie we created five systematically assigned transects and randomly selected sampling points along these transects. Seeds and seedheads were collected from the plant closest to the sampling point. Twenty-six R. pinnata seedhead samples from the remnant prairie were collected using the haphazard sampling method due to the scarcity of the plant while twenty-six R. pinnata seedhead samples from the recon-structed prairie were collected using random sampling. S. nutans seeds were collected from twenty sample plants using random sampling on both remnant and reconstructed prairies.
From the twenty collected S. nutans samples, we took 10 seeds at random, digitally photographed them, and measured the seeds’ lengths in millimeters using the program ImageJ. All of the seeds and seedheads were weighed separately by mother plant using an electronic balance. We also recorded the plant from which each seed originated in order to understand the effects of its genotype.
Finally, ten seeds were randomly selected from each R. pinnata and S. nutans sample and placed in a Petri dish lined with filter paper. Next, 1.5 ml of distilled water was added to each Petri dish. The Petri dishes were then sealed with Parafilm, and placed in a drawer to be incubated at approximately 23.5˚C. The samples were observed each day in order to record their percen-tage rate of germination per mother plant.
Before germinating, many seeds require cold stratification, the process of simulating natural conditions that a seed must endure prior to germination (Nelson n.d.). Cold stratification is not required for the seeds of the R. pinnata to grow; however, S. nutans seeds do require cold stratification (Smith and Smith 1980).
T-tests were used to determine whether the differences between seeds of different origins were significant. We calculated the difference between mean seed lengths of native and non-native seeds and seedheads, as well as the difference between mean seed weight of native and non-native seeds. We also calculated the difference between the percentages of R. pinnata seeds germinated per Petri dish. However, we did not perform a T-test on S. nutans germination percentages because none of the seeds germinated.
Non-native S. nutans seeds have 11.53% larger mean lengths than native seeds (Figure 1, T = 11.76, P [image:47837|||height=400]
Figure 1. Mean length of S. nutans seeds. (+/-1 S.E., n= 40). *** P[image:47838|||height=400]
Figure 2. Mean total weight of S. nutans seeds. (+/-1 S.E., n= 40). *** PThe difference of the mean lengths of R. pinnata seedheads is not significant (Figure 3, T = -1.42, P = .159). The mean weight of non-native seedheads was greater (71.03%) than that of native seedheads (Figure 4, T = -6.94, P [image:47839|||height=400]
Figure 3. Mean length of R. pinnata seedheads. (+/-1 S.E., n= 52). (t = 1.42, p= 0.159).
Figure 4. Mean weight of R. pinnata seedheads. (+/-1 S.E., n= 52). *** PFor the first two days of incubation, none of the R. pinnata seeds had germinated. The total germination percentage for non-native R. pinnata (8.46% germinated) seeds was double the germi¬nation percentage for native seeds (4.23% ger¬minated). Although the percentage of germinated non-native seeds per Petri dish was 33.5% greater than the percentage of native germinated seeds per Petri dish, this difference was not significant (T = 1.37, P = 0.195). No data is available on the germination rates of S. nutans seeds, because none of the seeds germinated within the 10 day period of our study.
Figure 5. Percentage of R. pinnata seeds germinated per plant. (+/-1 S.E., n= 52). (t = 1.37, p= 0.195).
Table 1. Percentage of the total R. pinnata seeds germinated.




We hypothesized that there would be differences in the lengths, total weights, and rates of germination between the native and non-native seeds of R. pinnata and S. nutans. The mean weights of both non-native R. pinnata seedheads and S. nutans seeds were significantly greater than that of native ones (Fig. 2, Fig. 4). Only the difference in the lengths of S. nutans seeds proved to be significant, while the lengths of R. pinnata seedheads did not (Fig. 1, Fig. 3). This evidence points to a variation in the physical characteristics of both species of seeds. However, our data regarding the germination rates of native and non-native seeds was not statistically significant.
Non-native R. pinnata and S. nutans seed-heads and seeds have greater mean weights than native seeds and seedheads. This data implies that the R. pinnata and S. nutans' seeds either weigh more individually or that the plants themselves produce more seeds. Previous research shows that heavier seeds have less concentrated energy than lighter seeds, yet they have equal amounts of nitrogen (Gross and Kromer 1986). Therefore, both lighter and heavier seeds have equal potential for germination. Our results show that seed weights have little effect on germination because both native and non-native seeds germinated. There may have been some variability in our results, because seedheads from each
R. pinnata plant were weighed together to find the total weight of each plant’s seeds. Thus, some samples had the potential for having more seedheads than other samples.
Our data on non-native S. nutans seeds showed greater mean lengths, reflecting a difference between native and non-native seeds. Such difference may be due to the origin of non-native seeds, some genetic variation between the native and non-native seeds, or a healthier mother plant (Gross and Kromer 1986). Tallgrass prairie seeds of the same species can differ genetically within prairie fragments and between distant locations (Gustafson, et al 2004). Research has shown that seed size is positively correlated with the performance of seedlings (Baker, et. al 1994). Our data shows that the non-native seeds of S. nutans were significantly longer, which could give them an advantage over the native seeds in the long term as they grow, but not necessarily in germination.
The total percentage of germinated non-native seeds doubles that of the germinated native seeds. However, the results of our seed germination experiment were not significant which may have been caused by an abundance of seeds placed in each experimental Petri dish. The overcrowding of seeds may have hindered germination by limiting the water resources necessary for each seed. When the germination results are compared per experimental units (Petri dishes) our results are still statistically inconclusive. Had our results been significant, they could have been the outcome of a genetic difference of non-native seeds or a healthier mother plant (Gross and Kromer 1986). The trend seen in our results regarding native and non-native R. pinnata seeds’ germination led us to believe that these two types of seeds have adapted to two different environments. A previous study demonstrated local adaptation in prairie plants, especially to soil conditions (Schultz, et al. 2001).
Our results in terms of seed dimension and weight, in the case of S. nutans, support the claims of certain ecological conservationists that native and non-native seeds differ significantly. Thus, only one type of seed should be used in the reconstruction of tallgrass prairies if the goal is to preserve a specific species variety and have a healthy population. If instead the goal is to preserve an entire ecosystem then the seeds can have multiple origins and benefit other populations (Sanders and McGraw 2005). Some non-native seeds may compete with native seeds and become the dominant genotype because of their increased performance (Baker, et. al 1994). Future studies regarding the use of native versus non-native seeds for prairie reconstruction or restoration may look at how competition between local and non-local plants affects each species in prairies. Also, the growth rate of these species when planted in on one another’s environment could be measured, along with their biomass, height etc. Since we germinated our seeds under identical conditions, future studies could account for the effects of soil nutrients, weather conditions, and local predators on plants’ growth.
We would like to thank Professor Brown, Sue Kolbe, Matthew Nielsen, and David Montgomery for helping us successfully carry out our study. We would also like to thank Larissa and Erik Mottl for their advice and guidance in the field and in the greenhouse. J. Scheibel, I. Luby, and J. Kreznar provided helpful feedback on an earlier draft.
Literature Cited
Baker, K., A.J. Richards, and M. Tremayne. 1994. Fitness constraints on flower number, seed number and seed size in the dimorphic species Primula farinosa L. and Armeria maritima (miller) willd. New phytologist 128: 563-570.
Brown, Jonathan, PhD. Professor of Biology. Personal Communication. September 16th, 2009.
Damhoureyeh, S.A. and D.C. Hartnett. 2002. Variation in grazing tolerance among three tallgrass prairie plant species. American journal of botany 89: 1634-1643.
Gross, K.L. and M.L. Kromer. 1986. Seed weight effects on growth and reproduction in oenothera biennis L. Bulletin of the torrey botanical club 113: 252-258.
Gustafson, D.J., D.J. Gibson, and D.L. Nickrent. 2004. Conservation genetics of two co-dominant grass species in an endangered grassland ecosystem. Journal of applied ecology 41: 389-397.
Kurtz, C. Nature Conservancy of Iowa. 2001. A practical guide to prairie reconstruction. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, IA.
Ladd, D.M., Oberle, F., and Nature Conservancy. 1995. Tallgrass prairie wildflowers: A falcon field guide. Falcon Press, Helena, Mont.
Mutel, Cornelia F. 2007. The emerald horizon: the history of nature in Iowa. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, Iowa.
Nelson, S. n.d. Seed stratification. http://gardenline.usask.ca/misc/seed_str.html. December 4, 2009.
Sanders, S. and J.B. McGraw. 2005. Population differentiation of a threatened plant: Variation in response to local environment and implications for restoration. Journal of the torrey botanical society 132: 561-572.
Schultz, P.A., R.M. Miller, J.D. Jastrow, C.V. Rivetta, and J.D. Bever. 2001. Evidence of a mycorrhizal mechanism for the adaptation of andropogon gerardii (Poaceae) to high- and low-nutrient prairies. American journal of botany 88: 1650-1656.
Smith, J.R. Smith, B.S. 1980. The prairie garden: 70 native plants you can grow in town or country. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wis.
Wimp, G.M., G.D. Martinsen, K.D. Floate, R.K. Bangert, and T.G. Whitham. 2005. Plant genetic determinants of arthropod community structure and diversity. Evolution 59: 61-69.


Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in math and science to Alice Nadeau '13

Friday, Mar. 30, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Grinnell College student Alice Nadeau has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for up to $7,500 toward tuition and other expenses during the 2012-13 academic year. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was established by Congress to encourage excellence in science and mathematics for American undergraduate students with excellent academic records and outstanding potential.

Nadeau, a third-year mathematics major from Waterloo, Ia., plans to pursue a Ph.D. and teach at the university level. “I am currently trying to explore as many areas of mathematics as available to me,” Nadeau said. “This is important in both teaching and research since connections and correlations can and frequently do come from outside one’s own specific field of study.”

As a Grinnell student, Nadeau serves as a student assistant for the Grinnell Science Project pre-orientation program; works in the costume studio for the theatre department; swims for the varsity swim team; and is an active participant in student government.

Grinnell student Rebecca Mandt, a third-year biology major from Mendota Heights, Minn., was named honorable mention in the competition. She plans a career in biomedical research.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.


The Metropolitan Opera returns to Grinnell College live in HD

Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Grinnell College is welcoming back New York City's Metropolitan Opera for the 2012-2013 season. The fall semester will include six "Live in HD" performances at the Harris Center Cinema on the Grinnell campus. Shows start Saturdays at noon and will be preceded by a half-hour opera talk by select faculty and staff members at 11:30 a.m.

The Live in HD series will begin Oct. 13. Below are the operas that will be featured:

  • October 13: Gaetano Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, considered one of the greatest comic gems in opera
  • October 27: Otello, Giuseppe Verdi's Shakespearean masterpiece
  • November 10: The Tempest, composed and conducted by Thomas Adès, recreates the interior of 18th-century La Scala
  • December 1: La Clemenza di Tito, Mozart's drama set in ancient Rome
  • December 8: Un Ballo in Maschera, a dramatic story of jealousy and vengeance composed by Giuseppe Verdi
  • December 15: Aida, Giuseppe Verdi's ancient Egyptian drama featuring the enslaved Ethiopian princess caught in a love triangle with the heroic Radamès and the proud Egyptian princess Amneris.

An encore presentation of Verdi's Otello will be shown on Oct. 31 at 6:30 p.m. with an opera talk at 6 p.m. This encore presentation will be a recording of an earlier live broadcast.

Synopses of the shows are available at http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx. Details for the spring 2013 Live in HD season will be announced at a later date.

Starting Aug. 24 for Met Opera members and Sept. 4 for the general public, tickets will be available for purchase at the Pioneer Bookshop in downtown Grinnell and the Grinnell College Bookstore: $15 for adults, $10 for students. Tickets will also be available at the Harris Center on the day of the show. Tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff and students have been generously funded by the Office of the President and are available at no cost at all ticket locations.

Harris Center is located at 1114 10th Ave., with available parking east of the center on 10th Ave. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Information on parking and accessibility is available on the college website. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 orcalendar@grinnell.edu.


Briefly: upcoming events

Friday, Apr. 13, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - >Grinnell Singers to perform Duke Ellington jazz Fri.

On Fri., Apr. 20, the Grinnell Singers will perform Duke Ellington’s “Sacred Concerts” with the Grinnell Jazz Ensemble and the Grinnell Oratorio Society. The concert at 7:30 p.m. in Sebring-Lewis Hall will also feature baritone Christopher Johnson and soprano Graciela Guzman. Ellington declared the "Sacred Concerts" to be the most important work he had ever done. This masterwork combines elements of jazz, gospel, classical, blues, and tap.  The Singers will also perform the Ellington works in downtown Des Moines on Sun., Apr. 22 at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 600 6th Ave.

Student groups raise awareness to prevent sexual assault

Several student groups will co-sponsor events during the week of Apr. 23 to raise awareness and promote the prevention of sexual assault.  On Tues., Apr. 24 at 8 p.m. in JRC 101,  Real Men will host author and speaker Katie Hnida to share her story of sexual assault by a teammate, years of silence and now spreading awareness. On Sat., Apr. 28, Real Men will join with Iowa Valley Community College (IVCC) to "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes," a march to end sexual assault and domestic abuse.  The walk begins at Drake Community Library, 5th and Park, at 4 p.m. All proceeds from the walk go to Poweshiek County Emergency Services. Real Men would like to thank the Department of Athletics, SGA, Center for Religion, Spirituality and Social Justice, Community Enhancement and Engagement, and Prof. Laura Armstrong at IVCC for supporting these activities.

Global Brigades chapter plans event to promote trip to Honduras

The campus chapter of Global Brigades will hold a fundraiser on Apr. 25 in Quad Dining of Main Hall to support a medical relief trip by 25 Grinnell students to Honduras in May.  Global Brigades, the world's largest student-run global health and sustainable development organization, sends brigades to Honduras, Panama, and Ghana to focus on developmental work. The Grinnell brigade will work with licensed physicians who will provide free medical and dental services to members of a rural community and local orphanage in Honduras. Each Grinnell brigader is expected to contribute $1,700 to cover the cost of housing, airfare and a contribution to Global Brigades for the May 21-27 trip. Tickets for the fundraiser may be purchased by contacting Xioaxi Yang ’14, Lisa Eshun-Wilson ’14, and Joseph Abraham ’14.

 UMOJA Conference Apr. 27-29

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More than 100 students from 36 Midwest institutions will join the Grinnell College African and Caribbean Students Union (ACSU) on campus Apr. 27-29 for the annual Umoja Conference.  The conference works to promote unity among the black student diaspora in the Midwest, encourage networking and host discussion on the experiences and challenges on campuses. The conference theme, according to ACSU organizers Alicia Afrah-Boateng ’12 and Nikeisha Sewell ’12, is ubuntu, the Bantu philosophy of “I am who I am because of who we all are.”  The weekend conference will feature a keynote speaker, guest performers and academic workshops.  Check out the various public events on the calendar.      

$1 million "capstone award" from HHMI boosts intermediate-level science education

Thursday, May. 24, 2012 7:30 pm | Contact: Des Moines Register; e! Science News; Iowa Higher Education

Grinnell College has received a $1 million science education “capstone award” from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), one of the nation’s largest private funders of biomedical research and education.

The four-year HHMI grant recognizes Grinnell for “sustained excellence and important contributions to undergraduate science education” and will support curricular reform and advising activities to benefit intermediate-level science students, building on already successful introductory and advanced research programs.

“One of the key opportunities we have with this generous grant is to develop intermediate-level undergraduates’ abilities to become scientific leaders,” said Leslie Gregg-Jolly, professor of biology and program director for the HHMI grant.

“Often students at the intermediate-level begin to question their own commitment and ‘fit’ in the scientific community, so we will use grant funds to assess student learning and attitudes, develop opportunities to work in teams outside of traditional disciplinary boundaries and offer employment to increase their involvement and success in science departments.”

The grant will also have impact for science education nationally. Grinnell’s Center for Science in the Liberal Arts will analyze and disseminate information about students’ performance, development and persistence to improve the STEM pipeline, using a nationally recognized research method developed by Grinnell Professor of Psychology David Lopatto.

“We are very grateful to HHMI for recognizing Grinnell’s national leadership in undergraduate science education,” said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. “The grant will further our institutional commitment to widening access and promoting success for all students as we respond to the nationwide call for science education reform and the need to develop a large and diverse pool of scientists.”

The 2012 HHMI grant is the fourth to Grinnell since 2000 and recognizes the college’s development of a “mature and successful program.” In 2011, the White House awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring to the Grinnell Science Project, a program to promote success among students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

Approximately one-third of Grinnell students graduate with a major in science. Nearly 70 percent of the college’s science graduates enter graduate programs; in fact, Grinnell ranks eighth on a per-capita basis among all U.S. higher education institutions whose graduates pursue Ph.D.s.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.


Grinnell Prize selection committee announced

Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Grinnell College has announced the 10-member selection committee to determine the winners of the 2013 Grinnell Prize. The award program honors young innovators under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change.

Nominations for the 2013 Prize will be accepted beginning Sept. 5, when the winners of the 2012 Prize will be announced, and are due by Nov. 5, 2012. Winners of the 2013 Prize will be announced in the fall of 2013. Details of the program and its nomination process are available at www.grinnell.edu/socialjusticeprize.

“Each year, the Grinnell Prize selection committee is required to select Prize winners from hundreds of qualified and impressive nominations,” said Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. “With the prize program entering its third year, the quality of these nominations continues to impress us, and we are thrilled to have a selection committee with so much experience and passion for effecting positive social change.”

The selection committee will be chaired by Eliza Willis, professor of political science, Grinnell College. Willis teaches courses on Latin American politics, global development, international political economy, and the political economy of developing countries. She previously served as chair of the Grinnell faculty.

The nine other members – largely Iowa-based – are recognized individuals who work for social change in various capacities. Their backgrounds, accomplishments and experiences reflect the diversity in Grinnell students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the state.

  • Meg Jones Bair, director of donor relations, Grinnell College. She has served in a variety of positions in the Development and Alumni Relations office during the past 17 years and also served on the Poweshiek County Foster Care Review Board and the Grinnell College Collection Committee.
  • Emily Westergaard Hamilton, executive director, Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation and Grinnell College 2002 graduate. Her organization works with at-risk youth to help students graduate and attend college.
  • Chris Hunter, professor of sociology, Grinnell College. He has served as coordinator of the college’s Minority Opportunities through School Transformation Program, a faculty representative on the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Committee on Minority Concerns, and on the boards of Mid-Iowa Community Action and the public library.
  • Kristi Knous, president and COO, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.  She also serves on the boards of Bravo Greater Des Moines, Midwest Housing Equity Group, and the Iowa State University Foundation Women and Philanthropy Advisory Committee.
  • Colleen Osborne, Grinnell College senior and student body president. She is a political science major hoping to pursue a career in women’s advocacy and international relations.
  • Suku Radia, president and CEO, Bankers Trust. He is active in numerous professional, economic development, educational and charitable organizations, including United Way of Central Iowa and the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.
  • Suzanne Siskel, executive vice president and chief operating officer, The Asia Foundation. She oversees the foundation’s day-to-day operations and works on strategy and policy issues in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Marsha Ternus, former chief justice, Iowa Supreme Court. As chief justice, she made the improvement of court oversight of child welfare cases a priority for the Iowa Judicial Branch, and in 2012, was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
  • Barrett Thomas, member of the Grinnell College board of trustees and a 1997 graduate. He is an associate professor in the Department of Management Sciences at the University of Iowa and is active in the fields of process improvement, logistics, and dynamic programming.

Selection committee members will pick one to three winners to receive an award of $100,000, half awarded to the individual and half to an organization committed to the winner’s area of social change, for a total of up to $300,000 in prize monies. Past nominations have spanned a diverse array of social issues, including hunger relief, childhood education, environmental issues, literacy, youth arts, fair housing, violence prevention, immigration, GLBTQ, youth services, hospice care, children’s mental health and global peace, among many others.

The Grinnell Prize directly reflects Grinnell’s historic mission to educate men and women “who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.” Nominations are open to U.S. citizens as well as nationals of other countries and are encouraged across a wide range of fields, including science, medicine, the environment, humanities, business, economics, education, law, public policy, social services, religion and ethics, as well as projects that cross these boundaries. Special efforts are made to seek nominees who work in areas that may not be traditionally viewed as directly connected to social justice, such as the arts and business. No affiliation with Grinnell College is required.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four-year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations and pre-professional programs.

Mateo Jarquín awarded Beinecke Scholarship for graduate study

Saturday, Apr. 14, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell IA - Grinnell College student Mateo Jarquín has been awarded a $34,000 competitive Beinecke Scholarship for graduate study. Jarquín, a third-year history major from Nicaragua, was nominated by Grinnell for the national competition based on his academic record, post-graduate plans and financial need.

Jarquín’s career goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in Latin American history and to become a professional commentator on Latin American affairs.   As a Grinnell student, Jarquín was selected as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and has conducted research on the relations of Latin American revolutionary regimes with the U.S. government. He has also served as a Spanish tutor, writing mentor, technology consultant, research assistant at Burling Library, and as a member of the history department’s student educational policy committee. 

The Beinecke Scholarship, administered by the Sperry Fund, “enables highly motivated students . . . to pursue opportunities and to be courageous in the selection of study in the arts, humanities and social studies.” Since the scholarship program began in 1975, more than 500 college juniors from more than 100 undergraduate institutions have been supported by the Sperry Fund.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.

Advisory: The case for a new medical college admission test

Friday, Apr. 6, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - Who: Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D., available to comment on New England Journal of Medicine article released today: “Building a Better Physician — The Case for the New MCAT”  

What: The case for evaluating the behavioral and social sciences in medical entrance exams and education

  • Kington is co-author of an article that supports changes in the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) by 2015 to include evaluation of knowledge in the behavioral and social sciences and critical analysis and reasoning.
  • It is not enough for physicians to understand “hard” sciences like anatomy or pathology. Today’s doctors need to understand the role of behavioral and social factors in wellness and outcomes. For example, how can a patient from a high-crime neighborhood get exercise to manage diabetes?
  • Health behaviors and social circumstances help explain a substantial portion of life expectancy differences among groups defined by income, race, sex, or age.
  • The proposed revisions to the MCAT recognize that physicians need foundational knowledge in the behavioral and social sciences similar to that expected in the basic sciences.
  • Kington can address the ties between social factors and physical health; issues of social justice and wellness; and the importance of broad-based preparation for aspiring physicians.
  • He previously served at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including as NIH Principal Deputy Director and NIH Acting Director, NIH Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and Acting Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.  Prior to NIH, he was a division director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he led the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), one of the nation's largest studies assessing the health of the American people. 

Contact: To interview Raynard Kington, Grinnell College, contact Jim Reische, communications, reischej@grinnell.edu, 641-269-3400; to interview co-author Robert M. Kaplan, NIH, contact Ann Benner, annb@nih.gov, 301-594-4574; to interview co-author Jason Satterfield, contact jsatter@medicine.ucsf.edu.


Winners of 2012 Grinnell Prize for social change announced

Thursday, Sep. 6, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - Grinnell College has announced the winners of the second annual  Grinnell Prize honoring young innovators for social change: Cristi Hegranes, executive director and founder, Global Press Institute; Jacob A. Wood, president of  Team Rubicon, and William B. McNulty III vice president of Team Rubicon (shared award); and Jane Chen, CEO of Embrace Innovations and co-founder, Embrace, and Linus Liang, Embrace co-founder and COO (shared award).

The Grinnell Prize, which received nominations from 45 countries, honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change.  Each winning entry receives $100,000, half to the individual(s) and half to an organization the winner(s) designates, for a total of $300,000 awarded this year in prize monies.

The pool of nominees for the Grinnell Prize spanned a diverse array of social issues, including hunger relief, disaster relief, childhood education, economic development, the environment, literacy, community-produced news, youth arts, fair housing, violence prevention, immigration, GLBTQ, restorative justice, public access to healthcare delivery, children’s mental health, urban agriculture, and global peace, among others.

“I’m delighted to announce these truly inspiring individuals as the winners of the 2012 Grinnell Prize. These young men and women embody Grinnell’s long-standing mission to prepare students to go out into the world and use their education for the benefit of the common good,” said Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. “Since we launched the Grinnell Prize two years ago, we have learned about a remarkable number of young people who are striving to make the world a better place. Our 2012 winners represent the ideals of the prize program in every way possible.”

Details for the second annual Grinnell Prize winners are as follows:

After observing numerous problems within her profession while working as a foreign correspondent in Nepal, Hegranes founded the Global Press Institute (GPI) to confront two specific challenges she observed: “the decline of quality international journalism and the need for more women’s economic empowerment.” Through GPI, Hegranes uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ and empower women to produce high-quality local news coverage that elevates global awareness and ignites social change.

Hegranes has built a network of professional women journalists throughout the developing world – all of whom earn a fair wage for reporting about their communities. Their unique coverage of issues, specifically those often overlooked by the mainstream media, contributes directly to community development and empowerment and also brings greater transparency and change to the way the world views their people and cultures.

To help combat reintegration problems faced by many U.S. veterans, Wood and McNulty founded Team Rubicon to unite the skills and experiences of military veterans with medical professionals who deploy first-response teams to disaster areas. Since its founding in January 2010, Team Rubicon has successfully affected thousands of lives, including victims of global and national disasters and returning U.S. military veterans. While providing aid on the streets of Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, Team Rubicon veterans realized that natural disasters present many of the same problems that confront troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: unstable populations, limited resources and horrific conditions. The skills cultivated by those on the battlefields – emergency medicine, risk assessment and mitigation, teamwork and leadership –are invaluable in disaster zones. By helping veterans transfer these critical skills, Team Rubicon has given hundreds of military men and women  a renewed sense of purpose and has pioneered a new paradigm in disaster response that  helps fringe victims outside the scope of where traditional aid organizations venture.

In 2007, Chen and Liang created a $200 infant warmer in response to a challenge posed during a Stanford University course and following a trip to Nepal where they witnessed firsthand the high infant death rates in developing countries due to hypothermia. Reduced from the normal $20,000 cost of an incubator, the infant warmer can be used in remote regions of the world without a continuous supply of electricity. Realizing that their innovation solved a small part of a large problem – specifically poor maternal and child health outcomes in developing countries – Chen and Liang are also working on preventive measures including education in remote areas such as Jhagadia, India and Banadir, Somalia, where their infant warmers are provided.

Embrace is also investing in research and development to create additional, low-cost health innovations to improve both women’s and children’s well-being.  Early this year, Chen and Liang created the for-profit venture Embrace Innovations, which will license the technology from Embrace and work on manufacturing, distribution and research for new products.

The winners will visit the Grinnell College campus the week of November 12 to participate in the Grinnell Prize Symposium and awards ceremony.  Through public lectures and interactions with students and the campus community, the winners will share their experiences and perspectives of how they were able to create innovative programs to effect positive social change.

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, will be the keynote speaker on Nov. 14. Before age 30, Greenfield and business partner Ben Cohen opened an ice cream shop in Burlington, Vt., that has since spawned a global brand. Though known for its ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s also has a strong commitment to “a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity.” Greenfield and Cohen are devoted not only to product and economic missions, but also to a progressive, nonpartisan social mission that “seeks to meet human needs and eliminate injustices” in their local, national and international communities by integrating the social concerns of their mission into day-to-day business activities.

Nominations for the 2013 Grinnell Prize are open through Nov. 5.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four-year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa.  Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations and pre-professional programs.

10 Alumni Award winners recognized during Reunion Weekend

Monday, Jun. 4, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - Grinnell College recognized the professional accomplishments and service contributions of 10 alumni during Alumni Reunion Weekend, June 1-3 on the Grinnell campus. Alumni Award winners are members of reunion classes who have distinguished themselves in their careers and communities and embody Grinnell’s mission of life-long learning and service.

The recognized alumni include:

  • Audrey “Bunny” Howard Swanson, a member of the class of 1943 from Belle Plaine, Minn., for her dedicated service to Grinnell and the League of Women Voters.
  • Linda Miller Staubitz, a member of the class of 1962 from Highwood, Ill., for her volunteer service to the college and local opera.
  • James Holbrook, a member of the class of 1966 from Salt Lake City, for his efforts in international dispute resolution.
  • Jacque “Jack” Reynolds, a member of the class of 1968 from Olathe, Kan., for sharing his medical expertise through local community service.
  • Mark Hamilton, a member of the class of 1971 from Ames, Ia., for advancing community journalism.
  • Barry Zigas, a member of the class of 1973 from Washington, D.C., for his advocacy in low-income housing policy.
  • Kimberly Kuncl, a member of the class of 1987 from Atlanta, for local and national work in women’s healthcare.
  • Anthony Weeks, a member of the class of 1991 from San Francisco, for his award-winning second career in filmmaking.
  • Devora Kimelman-Block, a member of the class of 1993 from Silver Spring, Md., for her work in community-supported food production.
  • Seth Gitter, a 2002 graduate from Silver Spring, Md., for his global development work.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four-year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs. -30-