Edge Hill University has provided second year student Ashley Tuffin with the chance to work as part of a research team at The Morton Arboretum, a world-renowned leader in tree science and education in Lisle, Illinois.

Ashley, who is on the BSc (Hons) Genetics course, will spend eight months exploring the restoration of prairie ecosystems and oak tree hybridization, and this has been made possible by the Student Opportunity Fund.

Established in 1922, The Morton Arboretum is a 1,700 acre tree museum with a four acre interactive children’s garden, public gardens, a library, herbarium, and Centre for Tree Science. Its grounds include catalogued collections of trees and other living plants, gardens and restored areas. The living collections include more than 4,100 different plant species with over 200,000 catalogued plants.

“The money I received helped pay for many things, from the flights and visa fees to regular travel costs,” said Ashley. “I heard about the Student Opportunity Fund from the Money Advice Team, during my time working as a money buddy and it was also recommended to me by Paul Ashton, my personal tutor, when we were arranging my trip.

“The placement at The Morton Arboretum involves participating in very real scientific research projects. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to get some real-world experience both in the field and in the lab.

“The Morton Arboretum do a lot of ecological work as well as genetic work, the two main focuses of my degree, which meant it was an ideal place for me to learn more about my field. I hope to learn more about phylogenetics, as well as more generally what it’s like to work in the research sector.”

After graduating, Ashley hopes to complete a Master’s degree, specialising further in Genetics.

“I hope to complete the next stage of my degree in a part of the country that I have not seen much of before, although Ormskirk will always hold a special place in my heart,” said Ashley.

Ashley will be at The Moreton Arboretum from October 2017 – April 2018 and will be writing regular blog posts to keep everyone up to date.

Click here to read Ashley’s first post.