Committee for Education and Diversity Representative: Aurora MacRae-Crerar (UPenn) and Elizabeth Schultheis (Michigan State)

ROLE:
As the outgoing student representative for the (newly renamed) Committee for Education and Diversity (CED), I act as the liaison between the ESA’s Student Section and the CED. I welcome any suggestions for getting students involved in educational programs.

Some great online resources for those interested in ecology education include:
EcoEd Digital Teaching Library: http://www.esa.org/ecoed/
TIEE (Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology): http://tiee.ecoed.net/

ABOUT ME & SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS:
I am interested in microbial diversity and plant diversity within the context of global change. My field site is in the Dalbay Valley of Outer Mongolia. There I am working with researchers of the NSF (National Science Foundation) PIRE (Partnerships for International Research and Education) Mongolia project at the International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER) site at Lake Hövsgöl. The grasslands of northern Mongolia are especially susceptible to the drastic ecological changes associated with global warming because of it is land-locked and at high latitude. Recent increases in temperature and growing season are only expected to become more extreme. In order to understand the range of effects associated with global change, we are conducting a series of experiments with respect to four key variables—warming, grazing, topography and water availability. In association with these experiments, I am investigating shifts in the microbial community composition and function and how they are influenced by the plant community. Specifically, I am using pyrosequencing techniques to quantify the microbial richness and abundance in the system. I am especially interested in how shifts in the microbial community will effect carbon and nitrogen cycling in the steppe grasslands. More information on the project can be found at http://mongolia.bio.upenn.edu/index.html

CONTACT INFO:
aurorama (at) sas.upenn.edu
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, thoughts and suggestions!




Elizabeth Schultheis (Incoming rep)

ABOUT ME:
I am a 4th year PhD student at the Kellogg Biological Station of MSU. I just completed my second year as an NSF GK-12 fellow, and it is through this program that I became interested in science education. As a fellow, I get to work with teachers and students in several local districts, and it's been great sharing my research and science experience with students. Throughout the year, teachers come to KBS several times to attend workshops we put on, where we help to develop classroom activities that they would find useful.

MY RESEARCH:
The number of invasive species is growing year-by-year, as plants, animals, and microbes are introduced (generally by accident) into habitats where they did not historically occur. Invasive species are often destructive, causing over $137 billion in damages to native ecosystems and human interests around the world annually. Yet, despite all the problems they cause, we still do not know what causes some species to be invasive and not others. My research addresses this question by testing whether invasive species are those that are not strongly controlled by competitors, predators, and herbivores outside their native range. That is, they are successful invaders because they have left their natural enemies behind.

I am testing this hypothesis by growing three categories of plants together in a field experiment with and without natural enemies: native plant species, introduced plant species that are not invasive, and invasive introduced plant species. Plant growth, survival, and reproduction will be measured in the presence and absence of herbivores and disease. I predict that removing natural enemies will have a greater benefit to native and non-invasive species than invasive species, because enemies have relatively little impact on invasive species. My research will help determine what factors contribute to invasion success and can, therefore, help predict and prevent future invasions.

CONTACT INFO:
schulth5 (at) msu.edu

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