This is the second part in the series of “where are they now”, devoted to students from our laboratory who have moved on to other adventures (click here for Part 1). I just could not resist writing about Zach Sylvain – Zach was a Master’s student in the lab a few years ago. He did a fascinating project at the Morgan Arboretum, all about the effects of habitat variation on oribatid mite diversity. His main research paper, titled “Effects of forest stand type on oribatid mite (Acari: Oribatida) assemblages in a southwestern Quebec forest” was published in Pedobiologia in 2010.
Zach was a terrific graduate student – he worked extremely hard, became an expert on identification of Oribatid mites (not an easy task) and wrote a high quality Master’s thesis. After McGill, Zach headed west, and landed in Diana Wall’s “Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning Lab” at Colorado State University:
Diana Wall is truly one of the lead scientists, globally, on the functional ecology of soil organisms. It was a perfect fit for Zach. In this laboratory, Zach’s Ph.D. is about the following:
His research into the community ecology of nematodes and oribatid mites focuses on drivers of their biodiversity such as soil moisture and the implications this diversity has for ecosystem functioning. Zach works at the Konza Prairie, Shortgrass Steppe, Jornada Basin and McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites. At these sites his research investigates how communities of soil animals are structured at varying levels of soil moisture, and how these communities respond to experimental manipulations of precipitation. This research investigates these trends at several scales and will provide insight into what consequences global climate change may have for belowground ecosystems.
Did you read that carefully?
Yes, it said the “McMurdo Dry Valley”. Here’s a link to the broader project: http://www.mcmlter.org/
And, yes, that is in Antarctica. Zach was able to travel to that incredible continent just over the past couple of month. I am insanely jealous. Although not known as being a biodiversity hotspot, Antarctica is nevertheless truly fascinating and home to a wonderful suite of invertebrates.
Zach was kind enough to let me use a couple of his photographs for this post. This all looks very exciting and we eagerly await the results of his research!