Catch Catomeris

 
Susan Grayston
Mississauga
Canada
 

Research Topic

Implications of Introduced Deer on Above- and Belowground Communities In Old Growth Forests

Research Group

Belowground Ecosystem Group

Research Description

Human-caused changes to herbivorous mammal populations are an international phenomenon. The effects of herbivores, such as deer, on vegetation have been well-documented; however, the resulting effects belowground are not as well understood. Deer can alter soil directly (e.g., compaction due to trampling) and/or indirectly (e.g., modified litter quality due to preferential browsing of plant species). My research is primarily concerned with 1) deer-mediated changes to the soil microbial community and, 2) methods to improve western redcedar regeneration in the presence of deer. Phospholipid fatty acids extracted from soil are being used to assess how deer alter microbial community structure, including fungal and bacterial biomass. My research also tests the efficacy of fungal inoculum and deer repellent as tools to promote western redcedar regeneration. Soil transplanted from different forest stands can act as a source of mycorrhizal fungi, while the deer repellent may increase seedling survival by reducing browse damage. The high palatability and slow growth rate of western redcedar make it particularly vulnerable to deer herbivory. This research can inform management decisions and silvicultural practices.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I most enjoy working in the field because it often inspires ingenuity. It is rewarding to see my research and planning in action and to adapt where necessary.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The opportunity for adventure! With forests, mountains, and the ocean, the possibilities are endless.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I met Dr. Sue Grayston through the Haida Gwaii Natural Resource Sciences Field Semester and wanted to be part of the research on introduced deer and soil ecology.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I felt that a graduate degree would enable me to specialize and expand my knowledge in soil science. I also hoped that my research would contribute to the field and help inform management decisions.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

The completion of an undergraduate thesis with Drs. Greg Thorn and Hugh Henry on the effects of supplemental nitrogen on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi helped prepare me for graduate school. The thesis introduced me to soil science and gave me experience with primary research.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I love hiking, flying trapeze, baking vegan treats, and relaxing with friends.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Ask questions and take advantage of the resources available to you.