A new academic year is upon us and with that comes new members joining the lab! To get to know our new Lewison Labmates a bit better we put together a quick Q&A.
Nima Farchadi, Ph.D. Student
Dr. Isabel Rojas-Viada, Postdoctoral Researcher
Where did you study your undergraduate degree?
What project where you working on immediately before joining the Lewison Lab?
What experience led you to be most interested in pursuing your current career path?
What are you most excited about in joining the Lewison Lab and the SDSU Ecology Program?
Who is your science hero?
Favorite place you have lived/visited?
Random fun fact that we don't know about you!
I completed a Bachelor in Science and Forest Engineer degree at the "Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile".
I was studying the role of riparian forests as provider of habitat connectivity for wildlife in Chile. For this project, I asked:
1.) How do agriculture and topography shape the connectivity provided by riparian forests? 2.) How do birds respond to the connectivity of riparian forests in agricultural land?
3.) where should efforts to enforce existing riparian buffer laws be targeted to increase habitat connectivity the most?
I found that current forms of agricultural land use decrease the connectivity by fragmenting riparian forests and that riparian forest corridors contributed to short-distance connectivity. Second, I learned that the majority of the birds that persist in agricultural areas can thrive in small and isolated riparian forest patches, while one forest understory specialist species was only present within continuous forest cover; either in large forests patches or corridors. Last, my scenario modeling suggested that enforcement of two riparian buffer sizes (30m or 200m) could increase broad-scale connectivity for two forest specialists with varying minimum habitat requirements (10 and 25ha). In summary, in landscapes well suited for tree growth, agriculture and topography resulted in little connectivity of the forest in flatlands, where habitat connectivity is most needed. My work identifies options for improving wildlife habitat connectivity in these flatlands. This research was part of my dissertation that I completed with the support of Professors Anna Pidgeon and Volker Radeloff in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
While I was completing my undergraduate degree, I had the chance to visit many farms and forest plantations. In those working landscapes, I observed many remaining natural habitats degraded. I also realized that we, humans, could do so a much better job to manage land in a way that is not destructive. As results of those observations, my research focuses on using ecology and spatial analysis to find solutions that balance human’s demands for natural resources with the protection of biodiversity and function of ecosystems.
I am lucky to join the Connecting Wildland and Community project (https://www.climatesciencealliance.org/cwc), led by Dr. Jennings and Dr. Lewison. This interdisciplinary project aims to find opportunities to create sustainable landscapes that will help biodiversity and humans to be resilient to the threats pose by climate change. In addition, I am happy to meet very friendly lab mates. I am excited to hear more stories from the field and cool research projects.
One of my heroes is Dr. Leonor Fahrig. She has made important contributions to our understanding of the ecology of organism using a landscapes perspective. Using multiple approaches, such as experiments, field observations and simulations analysis, Fahrig and collaborators have demonstrated that decreasing habitat amount is the largest threat to the persistence of species in fragmented landscape. Her clear and thorough writing style had help me to follow the evolution of our scientific understanding about this aspect of the ecology of organism that is extremely relevant to plan for biodiversity conservation.
Pucon, in the Araucania region of Chile. It is located in the foothill of a Volcano and the shore of the lake Villarrica and Trankura river. This region is home of some of the most amazing forest, such as the freshwater forest in the Trankura river dominated by a red trunk tree named "Temu", and very cool wildlife, like the endangered Darwin Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/19513/79809372).
I can go nuts with some live cumbia music.
Stay tuned to see these awesome scientists in action. Welcome to the Lewison Lab!