Lydia Soifer’s favorite moments usually involve lush green landscapes. From waking up to the cries of howler monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest, to hiking to a mountaintop cloud forest in Australia, the St. Louis native feels joy in the outdoors. Soifer developed a wonder for nature as a young kid who’d rather explore in the woods than watch TV. She collected treasures like cicada shells to keep in her bedroom. She also loved books, and found that a sturdy tree branch offered an excellent reading spot. Soifer is the 2020 recipient of the prestigious W. Thomas Smith Scholarship, which will fund her work on a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge next year. There, Soifer will continue her studies of orchid biology and conservation with some of the world’s top ecological researchers.