REHOBOTH - A former valedictorian at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School who is now a college student in Maine is making a name for himself in the field of botany.

Ian Medeiros, 20, a third-year student at the College of the Atlantic (COA) in Bar Harbor, was recently awarded three scholarships for his research on lichens. Lichens are organisms made up of a fungus and algal species in a symbiotic association and can be found on rocks, trees and soil.

Medeiros, a native of Rehoboth, received a $4,000 Barbara D. May Scholarship from the National Garden Club and a $1,000 scholarship from the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts. He will be using the scholarship money for tuition.

"I was thrilled to hear about the scholarships ... In some sense it feels as though my work is finally "paying off" financially as well as intellectually," Medeiros said.

In June, Medeiros spoke at the eighth International Conference on Serpentine Ecology in Sabah, Malaysia. He delivered a presentation on his research, titled "Diversity and Conservation of Lichens at Two Metal-Enriched Sites in Coastal Maine, USA."

His instructor at COA, Professor of Botany Nishanta Rajakaruna, said Medeiros is the only sophomore student of his who presented at an international conference. All the other students were seniors.

This summer, Medeiros is doing research on two lichen projects at the Field Museum in Chicago under the supervision of Dr. Robert Lücking, adjunct curator and collections manager, botany; and Dr. Thorsten Lumbsch, a curator of botany.

Rajakaruna said he is looking forward to what Ian has to offer in the coming years.

"Ian has shown he has what it takes to conduct research at the highest level that contributes a greater understanding of human interactions with nature," said Rajakaruna.

Medeiros' research is important because it shows that human-disturbed landscapes, especially those found on metal-enriched sites, can harbor unusual assemblages of species, even species new to science, says Rajakaruna.

"It is critical to pay attention to such environments as important sites for biodiversity research," Rajakaruna said.

Medeiros' research on lichens will soon appear in "Rhodora," the New England Journal of Botany.

Medeiros plans to attend graduate school after COA and eventually earn a PhD and work at a university where he can teach and continue to conduct research.

LAURA CALVERLEY covers Rehoboth for The Sun Chronicle. She can be reached at lacalverley@gmail.com.