October 1, 2023

Student to Spend 10 Months in Germany


Michael Crawford (left) is pictured here with his thesis advisor Stephen Davies, associate professor of computer science.

University of Mary Washington senior Michael Crawford will travel to Leipzig, Germany later this year thanks to a competitive scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Services, known as DAAD. Crawford will work alongside scientists to study how cow grazing affects plant biodiversity of grasslands.

Crawford will work from October 2014 until July 2015 at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in the Department of Ecological Modelling for a scientist named Volker Grimm.

In working for Grimm, Crawford will work to simplify an existing ecological simulation that details how certain plants grow or do not grow in conjunction with cow grazing.

“To illustrate, a slow growing plant that tastes very good to cows will, in aggregate, perform poorly versus plants that grow quickly and taste bad. After some time, it will go extinct,” said Crawford.

While graduate student Felix May showed how the model correctly reproduces reality, Crawford’s job will be to tease out what sub-processes enable it to do so.

“By doing so, we’ll be able to better see the grand design driving this environment and, furthermore, perhaps, take what we learned and apply it to different areas,” Crawford said.

DAAD is the largest German support organization in the field of international academic cooperation, and is a private, federally and state funded, self-governing national agency of the institutions of higher education in Germany. The scholarship is a similar award to a Fulbright scholarship, but is only for Germany.

The organization awards competitive, merit-based grants for use toward study and research in Germany at any of the accredited German institutions of higher education.