City College Fellow
Rebecca Panko was captivated by the beauty of the natural world at a very young age. She especially loved trees, and would spend hours each day climbing and exploring them. The daughter of park rangers, she was born in Shenandoah National Park, lived on Liberty Island (home of the Statue of Liberty), and eventually moved right outside of Everglades National Park in Florida. Family trips were spent hiking in forests, camping on beaches, snorkeling reefs and climbing mountains. These childhood experiences opened her eyes to the interconnectedness of organisms within ecosystems, but they also solidified her passion for plants.
Rebecca got her first taste of plant-related research as a teenager, when she was hired to survey native pines in Everglades NP as part of a longitudinal study on pine mortality. As a young adult, she moved to Brooklyn, New York, and enrolled at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). At BMCC, she researched the Portulacaceae family with Dr. van Loon and plant biodiversity in urban parks with Dr. Krauss. She worked at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, where she conducted fieldwork to identify, monitor, and remove exotic invasive plant species. Last summer, Rebecca was accepted by the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Tufts University, a program funded by NSF. While there, she studied physiological and morphological changes in the roots of Tsuga canadensis trees infested with invasive exotic insects.
From BMCC, Rebecca transferred to City College. Upon earning her bachelor's degree of biology, she intends to pursue doctoral studies in order to earn a PhD in forest ecology. She wants to research changes in native plant biodiversity and investigate physiological responses native plants employ when impacted by invasive insects and plants. In addition to her career goals, she has trained to become a wild-land firefighter and sings in a rock band.