La Monarca Vol 4 FINAL - Page 2

Doctoral Student Spotlight
A d r i a n a L u c Í a Ro m e ro O l i va r e s
Continued from page 1
What she is finding runs counter to the prevailing paradigm and
indicates that decomposition is occurring more slowly in her Alaskan
experiment than climate forecast
predictions would anticipate.
Results from climate models
alone suggest that decomposition
should speed up. The source of
this discrepancy, she explains, is
that fungi and bacteria eat different things, and depending on the
temperature they “prefer” different foods.
Bacteria mostly eat easily digestible (“labile”) compounds, whereas
fungi break down tough and nasty
(“recalcitrant”) compounds. Warming, however, is changing the way
that microbes eat and thus changing the composition of soils. Evolution experiments of fungi paired
with fieldwork data help us understand how the adaptation of fungi
to global warming plays a role in the
future of Earth’s ecosystems. According to Adriana, greater appreciation
of all soil microbes and their “food
preferences” under warming will
improve the precision of models to
forecast the response of ecosystems
to climate change. “It’s relatively easy
to get data from the lab. You have
control of everything. Then you go
into the field and everything’s a mess
though you get to see what’s actually be part of one of the premier microhappening. But in the lab you get to bial and climate change ecology propinpoint at the cellular and even at grams in the world.”
the molecular level.”
Adriana herself has also contribOne might be tempted to ask why uted greatly to the campus and
Adriana chose to focus on fungi for community, having co-organized a
her doctoral research, but as she science camp for teenage girls. The
explains, “It wasn’t so much that program offers an intensive weekI chose fungi but that fungi found long residential program for young
me!” She attributes her interest to women to stay at the UC Irvine
several inspiring teachers at her un- dorms and visit different labs on
campus. Current doctoral students prepare activities related
to academic life and research,
and all branches of science
(from ecology to evolution,
engineering, chemistry and
medicine) are represented. “I
really care about getting more
women interested in science,”
she says, “The best time is
when they’re teenagers, about
12 years old, which is why
Adriana Romero at her field site in Alaska.
I started and have been involved
dergraduate and masters’ institutions in this science camp for four years
in Ensenada. Combined with her in- now.”
satiable curiosity and a tendency to
As for the future, she knows that
root for the underdog, her path was
she wants to stay in academia to have
set. “I realized that in the literature,
the ability to reach students of all
fungi were the underdogs,” she says.
backgrounds. She also wants to con“Everyone’s talking about bacteria
tribute to knowledge that can shape
but fungi are underappreciated, and
the world. While she acknowledges
I found myself getting upset!”
that the academic job market is comRegarding her doctoral studies at petitive, she is doing everything she
UC Irvine, she is particularly grate- can to position herself for a future lab
ful. “I got much more than I was and students of her own. For now,
hoping for,” she says “I came to UC she is grateful for the time she’s spent
Irvine because of my advisor, but I at UC Irvine, the fascinating places
was never expecting to join such an she’s been able to travel, and that her
amazing group of people that were “husband likes fungi too!” •
working with microbes in so many
different ways. I’m very honored to
Photo courtesy of Adriana Romero Olivares
For the last four years, she has returned to Alaska every May and September to monitor and simulate
climate-warming changes in a number of mini-greenhouses established
at UC Irvine by her dissertation advisor, Professor Kathleen Treseder.

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