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Eastern Washington University
526 5th Street
Cheney, WA 99004
phone: 509.359.6200 (campus operator)

Monica Villegas

McNair Scholar Villegas

Monica Villegas is a junior undergraduate at Eastern Washington University. Her research interests include current and future effects of climate change and all aspects of ecology. Currently, her research with the Ronald E. McNair Internship focuses on increased wild fire effects in the local Cheney, WA area and its effects on soil ecosystems. Monica will graduate from EWU in the spring of 2018 with a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and plans to continue her education in hopes to obtain a Ph.D.

McNair Faculty Research Mentor: Dr. Justin Bastow - Biology

McNair Research Title: Simulated Wildfire Effects on Soil Ecosystem Productivity: In Response to Climate Change 

McNair Research Abstract: With an annual increase in temperatures across the pacific northwest due to climate change, the area is expected to see a spike in wildfires across the region. Washington state relies heavily on water, particularly from runoff of the cascades. With a decrease in overall snowpack accumulation and an earlier snowpack melt cause by climate change effects the regionis faced with some harmful consequences. An earlier snowpack melt in the region will lead to prolonged drought periods that can cause vegetation and wildlife to become weakened. This canlead to an increase in wildfires across the region and harm homes, forests, wildlife and soils. The effects of simulated wildfires on soil ecosystems was tested on two different types of soils;grassland and forest ecosystems. Plots were divided into equal sections containing a control,light fire intensity that was for a duration of five minutes and a high fire intensity that was for a  duration of ten minutes. Soil samples were taken before the burns, immediately after, andapproximately four weeks after the initial burn. Samples were taken for soil moisture andnematode abundance. Nematodes were used as a measure of soil productivity based on the large amounts of literature that supports their involvement within soil ecosystems. Nematodes were counted in each sample and placed into function groups based on their morphology. Overallthere was no significant effect of simulated wildfires on soil moisture across all treatments. However, simulated wildfires did indeed have a  significant effect on nematode abundance

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