Eco Health Cluster Solves Environmental Problems and Fosters Collaboration | New


Texas Tech is researching the effects of climate change on various ecosystems through the Eco Health Cluster of the Department of Biology.

The Eco Health Cluster is an on-campus group led by faculty members from the Biology Department, including Nick Smith, Natasja van Gestel, and Dylan Schwilk, who help students study different facets of climate change.

Cluster members are generally interested in the impact of environmental changes on ecosystems over space and time, Smith said.

“It can be things like abiotic conditions like temperature and precipitation, and atmospheric conditions, but also things like what humans do to the environment,” Smith said.

Much of the research is heavily based in the American Southwest, but research is also underway closer to Tech, Smith said. There are field sites in and around Lubbock with work underway at the Department of Natural Resource Management, which maintains native rangelands where field experiments are being set up.

There is also work in the region’s farming systems as Eco Health group partners with those of the USDA, but also with local farmers, Smith said.

“Much of our research is focused on global change,” said Evan Perkowski, teaching assistant in biological sciences. “We have a group that focuses on, like, the ecology of fire. (And) our group is focused on finding a good physiology, an outdated synthesis, an answer to different, you know, global change scenarios, and then on the guests of the event, these labs come together. focus on what’s going on under the ground, so different, you know, microorganisms, bacteria, fungi and how those might spread to have an impact, like farming practices and stuff like that.

The work done in the labs brings several benefits, helping the environment and teaching students at the same time, Perkowski said.

Smith said one benefit of the group’s collaboration is that everyone has access to resources and knowledge they might not have had before, as well as helping postdoctoral fellows and fellow students. .

“They can interact with each other more than they normally would, which is pretty great for collaboration and idea development,” Smith said.

Azaj Mahmud, a teaching assistant in the biological sciences, said the group continues to grow and the group is trying to achieve many goals.

“One of the biggest goals is to foster this sense of collaboration, but also a sense of community,” said Mahmud. “Each individual lab has a group of graduate and undergraduate students. Our post-docs have an opportunity to mentor undergraduate students, right?”

This growing group not only helps teach how environmental changes impact ecosystems, Perkowski said, but also gives students a chance to gain hands-on experience for future projects.

“We strive to make this space a truly inclusive space that anyone can join in,” said Perkowski. “If there are any undergraduates who wish to join our lab group, they are always welcome to contact Nick, Dylan or Natasha, and we would be more than happy to have them. “


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