Kit Hamley wins the Edith Patch award

Four University of Maine students have been named winners of the 2020 Edith Patch Award.

The award is given annually to undergraduate and graduate students who have demonstrated scholarship and service in the fields of science, agriculture, engineering, or environmental education, and who show promise for future contributions in their field.

The award is named in honor of UMaine’s first woman scientist, Edith Marion Patch (1876–1954), who was an internationally renowned entomologist, environmentalist and educator in the early 20th century. It is given by the Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch in celebration of her life and legacy, as well as in recognition of the accomplishments of the next generation of women at UMaine.

This year’s winners are:

  • Catherine “Kit” Hamley, a doctoral student in the Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program, with a certificate in interdisciplinary climate studies
  • Sara McBride, a master’s student in the Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program
  • Arianna “Ari” Giguere, an undergraduate student and Honors College member who is majoring in physics and minoring in mathematics
  • Brittany Torchia, an undergraduate student and Honors College member who is majoring in marine sciences

Hamley’s groundbreaking work has been internationally recognized for its focus on early human land use impacts in sensitive ecosystems, such as the Falklands, Alaska and coastal Maine; and for considering the relationships among human arrival, climate change, vegetation and megafaunal extinctions. Following in the footsteps of Edith Patch, Hamley is committed to opening the world of science to young learners, reaching thousands of students across the nation with her live-tweeting, virtual Q&As and field videos.

McBride’s research focuses on tick-borne disease ecology. Integrating fieldwork, pathogen testing, and spatial analysis, she has created a risk map for exposure to ticks and Lyme disease in Acadia National Park. In addition to providing a tool that can protect park staff and visitors, her work has yielded the ecologically important finding that the greatest risk of tick exposure in the park occurs in areas burned during the Fire of 1947, where old growth coniferous forest has been replaced by more “tick-friendly” deciduous and mixed forest habitat. Like Edith Patch, McBride shares her skills and knowledge as a respected collaborator, mentor and teacher.

Giguere has played an important role as teacher and mentor for her fellow undergraduates. Working as a Maine Learning Assistant, she has developed innovative ways to present challenging content for physics undergraduates. Giguere has earned multiple, highly competitive research opportunities through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program, including investigating surface science at UMaine, engaging in computational physics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; and working on ultrafast lasers at the École Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées in Paris. Her Honors thesis integrates her work in math, physics, neurocognition, and education, using a computational tool to analyze middle school students’ understanding of energy. Echoing Edith Patch’s outreach to teachers and learners, Giguere’s work will make an important contribution to the professional development of teachers and the experiences of their students.

Torchia’s groundbreaking research integrates fieldwork, parasite taxonomy, pathology and molecular biology in the investigation of the myxosporidian parasite Parahepatospora carcini in the green crab, an invasive species in Maine waters. This aggressive crab is a threat to mussels and other Maine shellfish, so Torchia’s work might prove an important contribution to strategies for controlling this aquatic invader. Torchia is a member of the UMaine Track and Field Team. She has also been active with the Animal and Veterinary Science (AVS) Society by caring for animals at Witter Farm, assisting with the births of the University’s Icelandic lambs, and helping guide equestrian experiences for learners with disabilities. Like Edith Patch, she has demonstrated excellence, not only in her focused research, but also in her approach to the wider world.

In addition to the Edith Patch Award winners, four UMaine women have been named Distinguished Nominees: doctoral students Tish Carr and Stephanie Shea, who are both in the Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program; Ruth Sexton, a master’s student in the Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program; and Tongling Ge, a doctoral student in the School of Food and Agriculture.