Tanisha Marie Williams

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Research Project: Studying the effects of climate change on diverse plant genera in South Africa

While working on a B.S. in Energy, Business and Finance at Penn State, Tanisha Williams took part in a research expedition to the Amazonian rain forest in Peru. One evening she received a personal tour of medicinal gardens from a local shaman. He told her, “You must study plants; it is what you will do.”

Those words proved fateful. Today, as a UConn Ph.D. candidate, she is studying two diverse plant genera, Protea and Pelargonium, in the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) of South Africa—an area whose biodiversity is sensitive to the effects of global climate change. Her goal is to predict the impacts of climate change on those genera in the hopes of contributing to better protection of vulnerable plant species in the region.

Tanisha came to UConn with plenty of research experience in her field. While pursuing her M.S. in Environmental Science from California State University Los Angeles, she researched gene flow and hybridization patterns in three species of Populus found throughout California and Nevada. Her research enabled her to make conservation, preservation and development recommendations to officials in those states.

She hopes to continue influencing science policy in the future. A native of Washington, D.C., Tanisha plans to return there after earning her Ph.D. and serve as an advisor and consultant to lawmakers on environmental issues.

In addition to her Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship, Tanisha has a fellowship from UConn’s Outstanding Multicultural Scholars Program (OMSP). She is also a member of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Student Association and the Graduate Students of Color Association, and serves as a graduate student representative at the Graduate School’s Hearing Committee meetings. Her other professional memberships include the Botanical Society of America and the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Before coming to UConn, Tanisha was a mentor through Preparing Leaders and Nurturing Tomorrow’s Scientists (PLANTS) and was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) M.S.-to-Ph.D. Scholar. She also took active roles in numerous STEM organizations for women and minority students.

Outside the lab, Tanisha’s interests include reading science literature, listening to TED Talks and RadioLab, reading about historical figures, and hiking in local and national parks. She has also recently developed a penchant for do-it-yourself home and jewelry projects.

On her long list of interests, protecting the environment remains at the top. “I am passionate about our environment,” she shares, “for the plants, animals and other organisms have no voice. I am their voice.”

Tanisha Williams
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