Michael Van Dolah
The purpose of Van Dolah’s winning program, “Critically Endangered Orchid Conservation Research”, is to help repopulate the local and regional environments with the showy lady’s-slipper orchid, a critically endangered plant in New Hampshire and Vermont. With the grant, part of the school’s biology laboratory will be converted to raise thousands of lady’s-slipper orchid seedlings. Students will be required to research the histology of the showy lady’s-slipper throughout its development, coordinating with laboratory resources at Dartmouth College and Valley Regional Hospital. Because of Kimball Union Academy’s 1,300 acre campus has a greenhouse and various orchid sanctuaries, students have access to a wealth of opportunities to research environmental variables affecting repopulation. Throughout the program, the school will collaborate with the New Hampshire Orchid Society, the Twin State Orchid Society, and other regional garden clubs in finding sanctuaries for restoring the orchid to its natural habitat. Students also will have an opportunity to present their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Van Dolah, who lives in Meriden, wants his students to experience authentic science by addressing a real-world problem and developing a solution that should have a lasting impact on the community and its environment.