For the first time in nine years, a UCF student has been awarded a prestigious Udall Scholarship — the second-ever in UCF’s history. Udall Scholarships are awarded by the Udall Foundation to around 55 college sophomores and juniors each year for leadership, public service and a commitment to issues related to Native Americans or the environment.

Recipients receive up to $7,000 for academic expenses and are connected to a network of professionals where they can learn new skills and interact with leaders in the respective fields.

Meet Yaelle Reeve, a third-year biology major and UCF’s 2023 Udall Scholarship recipient.

You received the Udall Scholarship under the environmental category. What about the environment are you researching and why does this topic interest you?

I’m a biology major in the ecology, evolutionary and conservation track with a minor in environmental studies. Through UCF’s Honors Undergraduate Thesis (HUT) program, I’ve been able to conduct my own research to help understand factors that influence nectar production in native plants that support pollinator communities and interactions in urban landscapes. This is important due to the global decline of pollinators, which increase plant reproduction and fruit production and have an important role in food webs. One way to enhance pollinator habitats in urban areas is to use native plants in landscape designs. There is a lack of research on nectar production in urban landscapes, and more information on this subject is crucial for understanding floral resources needed to support the conservation of pollinators and pollinator diversity in urban systems.

Students interested in applying for the Udall Scholarship or other major national awards should contact the Office of Prestigious Awards at

What do you credit your success to?

I attribute my success to the support and opportunities provided by various individuals and organizations throughout my journey. First and foremost, I want to thank my mother. Her unwavering support has been invaluable in helping me and my siblings pursue our goals and dreams.

My passion for the environment began during my time at BioTECH @ Richmond Heights, a high school that specializes in botany and zoology. I participated in the Horticulture Club and in Growing Beyond Earth, a research program in partnership with the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and NASA, which further deepened my interest in crop cultivation, growth rates and nutritional value. While at Miami-Dade Honors College, I was involved in sustainability efforts as president of the YES!Club, which participated in recycling events, revived the campus garden and donated produce from the garden to the food pantry on campus. Today, I continue a similar kind of involvement with the Arboretum Community Farm and Garden at UCF. The many opportunities, organizations and individuals I’ve encountered throughout my journey have been influential in motivating me to further my education and give back to my community.

What are your career aspirations?

After graduation, my goal is to continue developing as a scientist. I have a strong interest in atmospheric science, forestry and agricultural science. Through my biology education, I want to deepen my understanding of environmental challenges like climate change, food waste and water scarcity. I’m particularly interested in exploring ways to address these issues and contribute to food security. It’s crucial to anticipate and take preventive measures to ensure our long-term survival in the face of potential complications.

What advice would you give other students who aspire to achieve this as well similar accolades?

Engage in research and seize opportunities that align with your interests and passions. Reach out to faculty members, join clubs or organizations relevant to your field and surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Often, by being involved and asking questions, you will uncover a multitude of opportunities. Volunteering with nonprofit organizations also can provide valuable experiences and foster a sense of community involvement, which can further strengthen your application. Remember to document all your accomplishments when applying for scholarships or awards, no matter how small they may seem. Focus on achievements that relate to your present and future goals and that highlight your involvement on campus and in the surrounding community. Express your aspirations and articulate the steps you are taking to effect positive change. Ultimately, perseverance, passion and actively pursuing opportunities will increase your chances of achieving your goals. Believe in your abilities and let your commitment shine through in your applications and actions.

Students interested in applying for the Udall Scholarship or other major national awards should contact the Office of Prestigious Awards at