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Pryce Millikin earns strong external support for thesis research

Pryce Millikin

Pryce Millikin, the current Master’s student in the Yoder Lab, has won not one but three external awards providing financial support for his thesis research. Pryce started in the lab last fall, and hit the ground running on a project to understand how climate variation might impact the specialized pollinators of Joshua trees, the yucca moths Tegeticula synthetica and T. antithetica. His applications for support have found a lot of appeal for organizations interested in studying and conserving Joshua trees and the desert landscapes they mark:

  • The Joshua Tree National Park Association’s Graduate Student Research Grant, which supports research projects in Joshua Tree National Park, and provides lodging in park facilities.
  • The CSU Desert Studies Center Judith Presch Desert Research Scholarship, which provides funds for research in and around Mojave National Preserve, and provides lodging at the Desert Studies Center’s Zzyzx field station.
  • The Robert E. Reynolds Desert Symposium Student Research Award, which supports student research projects suitable for presentation at “the preeminent conference on desert research.”

Pryce has already made good progress repurposing an analytic pipeline the lab developed to model the health of wild populations, and is spending the spring semester surveying Joshua tree populations for evidence of the pollinators’ activity. They’re tiny, elusive, and hard to track independently of the trees, but we know where they’ve been active because they’re the only animal that pollinates Joshua trees, so trees that set fruit after flowering have been visited by yucca moths. Pryce is also planning experiments to understand how the moths respond to winter temperatures while they’re in diapause, a sort of hibernation they enter as pupae, burrowed into the desert soil, to wait for the next Joshua tree flowering season.

Watch for Pryce’s presentations of preliminary results at conferences this summer — and at the Desert Symposium next year.