A Valparaiso University student’s essay on the impact of the emerald ash borer infestation on North American forests has been honored for its excellence.

Matthew Lewitke, a junior environmental science major from Tinley Park, Ill., received Valparaiso University Donnelley Prize for his essay “Biological Solutions to the Emerald Ash Borer Infestation.” The prize is presented annually for the most outstanding student essay on a subject involving humankind’s relationship to the environment.

“Matthew’s work demonstrates the commitment to both the social responsibility and the academic excellence that Valparaiso University upholds,” said Mel Piehl, dean of Christ College, Valpo’s interdisciplinary honors college.

The winning essay was selected by faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and Christ College. Lewitke will receive a cash prize of $750 and will be funded up to $2,500 for an internship or research project connected to environmental issues.

In his essay, Lewitke describes the devastating impact of the emerald ash borer, a penny-sized beetle that entered the United States from Asia in the early 1990s and has since had a devastating impact on North American Ash forests, especially in the Midwest. Without aggressive responses, the Ash tree is in danger of near-extinction, and attempted solutions involving pesticides and clear-cutting have proven ineffective. Lewitke proposes instead an ecologically sound method of fighting the infestation involving use of a parasitic wasp species that has proven 90 percent effective in destroying ash borer larvae in China.

The Donnelley Prize was established by Strachan and Vivian Donnelley to engage Valpo students in interdisciplinary research regarding humans and nature. Donnelley, one of the first faculty members to teach in Christ College, was director of the Humans and Nature Program at the Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., and died in 2008. Vivian Donnelley is a Valpo alumnus.