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Heather E. Machado (formerly Heather E. de Glanville)
Portland State University
I am at the conclusion of my master’s degree at Portland State University, with a research focus on ecological genetics and broad interests in plant responses to climate change. My thesis project measures the transcriptional water-stress response of advanced-generation hybrid plants and their parental counterparts. The results are compelling and the techniques used are good examples of genetics in ecology. This will be my first oral presentation at a conference and also the first major project I have completed. While I am proud to share it with the ecology community, I am most interested in the feedback. I see it as an important step in the progression of my understanding and ability to communicate ecological processes.
The study of an organism’s response to biotic and abiotic factors is increasingly important in a time where we will be able to witness global changes in these factors. Application of ecological research falls into three interrelated categories- predictive, managerial and general. Data that can be used for predictive purposes includes responses of an organism to certain factors, and managerial application can be derived from such predictions. General research is that which does not currently fall into the predictive or managerial categories, yet yields data that might later contribute to these applications. Keeping the levels of application in mind while developing research questions can help to focus the researcher and communicate to non-Ecologists the process of using ecological data and its relative importance.
Ecological research would be of little importance without its communication to those that can learn from or apply that research. I stay in constant communication by teaching, attending conferences, and seeking out collaborations. In 2008 I will be traveling to Argentina on a Fulbright scholarship to collaborate on conducting plant collections for phylogenetic analysis. While there I will reach out to the community by teaching a high school Plant Ecology class. Aside from the personal satisfaction of sharing knowledge, I feel that through my last two years of teaching, students are inspired by ecology. I also intend on entering a PhD program, to ultimately teach at the university level and inspire a new generation of Ecologists.