Gisella Cruz García, 29, is a PhD student in the Crop and Weed Ecology Group at Wageningen University, where her research focuses on the biodiversity of paddy rice ecosystems. The award will enable her to further her studies on how rice production in the paddy fields of north-eastern Thailand could be improved, while protecting the value of other associated plants used for food and medicine by local residents.

"We're delighted that Ms. Cruz García has been honoured with this prestigious award,". "She joins a small but very impressive group of world-class female rice researchers that have worked here over the years. The work of many of these women, and the extraordinary impact some of them have been able to achieve, has been one of the great untold stories of rice research for far too long." In announcing her award, L'Oréal-UNESCO said that rice fields cover 135 million hectares of arable land in Asia. "As well as their importance to agriculture, these fields are also considered to be a unique source of biodiversity, with more than 100 useful plant species growing alongside the rice plants."

"Despite this, little research has been done on the characterization of biodiversity in paddy rice agroecosystems," Cruz García said in accepting her award. "Because of this, one of the main benefits of the research will be more realistic modelling of such agroecosystems, with particular emphasis on aspects critical to human welfare such as associated species used as foods and medicines." Cruz García will be carrying out botanical surveys and analysing the management practices of households in her targeted area of Kalasin Province in northeastern Thailand in conjunction with the quantification of the useful plant diversity.; Source: International Rice Research Institute