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Clarke Named Fulbright Scholar, Heads to Nepal

 

Photo provided.

Lily Clarke in Nepal during her Fulbright interview in February.

SWAN VALLEY - Lily Clarke, former resident of Condon, is one of five alumni from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. to receive a Fulbright Scholarship. She will spend a year working on a research fellowship in Nepal conducting ethnomycology (combining anthropology and mycology, the study of mushrooms) and assessing the current state of community-managed forests.

Clarke attended Salmon Prairie School through eighth grade and graduated from Hellgate High School. She became interested in biology when she had the opportunity to do yearly ecological field studies with Salmon Prairie School.

"I really enjoyed having the chance to study the changes in the forest and streams each year," said Clarke. "Throughout high school I began noticing the changes happening in the Swan due to climate change and development, and this got me even more interested in biology."

She pursued a degree in biology at Lewis & Clark. In her sophomore year she applied for the Presidential Scholarship for Academic Engagement by writing an original interdisciplinary research proposal.

"I sought inspiration from one of my favorite biology teachers at Lewis & Clark, and he asked me, 'What is an organism you connect with?" said Clarke. "I thought of the many summers my family and I climbed the mountains in the Swan searching for fire morel mushrooms."

Clarke soon realized that there was no research to assess why morels appear following a fire or how they may contribute to forest recovery.

"This in turn leads to very loose management of harvesting fire morels, and with so many people going to the slopes to harvest morels for personal and marketable purposes, I decided this would be the most interesting and impactful study I could do," said Clarke.

Clarke received the Presidential Scholarship in 2013 and did a three-year independent study on fire morels in the Condon area. Because her results conflicted with some new studies, she is currently on a contract to continue her research on mushrooms and forest ecology in Germany under the supervision of Dr. Francois Buscot, a renowned morel mycologist, through the end of June. Clarke said this research has the potential to provide more knowledge on how morels contribute to the ecosystems making stricter harvesting regulations essential as fires continue to increase in frequency and severity.

Clarke graduated from Lewis & Clark College in May 2015. She wrote a proposal for the Fulbright Research Scholarship that would encompass how communities in Nepal utilize mushrooms and the local forest and how this impacts the health of both the forest and the people.

"Growing up in Condon, I saw how intricately intertwined the lives of the people are with the local ecology," said Clarke. "From this I believe that ecology and the effects it has on the local community and vice versa cannot be separated."

In many parts of Nepal, Clarke said that there is a rich knowledge of the medicinal and edible uses of mushrooms. Mushrooms are also a huge contributor to the economy of small villages in the mountains of Nepal and mushroom biodiversity is a good indicator of forest health.

Clarke received the Fulbright Scholarship and will begin her research fellowship in Nepal in July. The questions she will address include:

• Assess the biodiversity of mushrooms in community-managed forests to assess how well they are being managed. Clarke hypothesizes that there is not enough wood being left to decay and recycle nutrients into the soil because down wood is gathered for firewood.

• How do Nepalese communities at different elevations utilize mushrooms, and how well are these mushrooms being conserved?

• Teach mushroom cultivation, as many villages are interested in this for nutritional and economic reasons.

• Help the reforestation efforts in Nepal by helping them write grants to science foundations.

Photo provided.

Lily Clarke with morel mushrooms during her research in Germany.

"I am incredibly honored and thrilled to have received the Fulbright Research Scholarship. It is a great opportunity for me to make an impact in the world. Because from an early age I was surrounded by people who believed in me, I pursued activities and intense academics, scholarships that allowed me to attend a very respected college, grants that allowed me to pursue my interests, and all of this also connects to my love of the environment that developed from growing up in the Swan," said Clarke. "All of these things happened because I, a girl from small town Montana, have a great support system and have been inspired by so many people."

Clarke encouraged students in the Seeley Lake and Condon areas to pursue higher education because "you never know what scholarships or opportunities may await you when you make the effort to pursue higher education and the opportunities that may come thereafter."

Clarke continued, "I believe that we have a unique knowledge base and unique experiences from growing up in the Swan and Seeley, and if students use that to their advantage when applying to schools and beyond, people will be interested in them."

 

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