The University of Georgia Graduate School honored Dr. Michael Strickland (Ph.D. '09) with its annual Graduate Student Excellence in Research Award in the Life Sciences on March 18, 2010.
“We are proud of Dr. Strickland for conducting quality research that is already challenging conventional assumptions in the field,” said Maureen Grasso, dean of the Graduate School. “Early into his research career, he is attracting national and international attention from both ecological and environmental science communities.”
As a student in the UGA Odum School of Ecology, Strickland authored or co-authored 10 manuscripts that are currently published, in review, or in press. According to Sonia Altizer, associate professor in the Odum School, "Mike's publication record and awards for his work at such an early stage in his career are amazing. He has demonstrated a remarkable talent and drive in conducting his dissertation research, and is very deserving of this award."
The first paper from his dissertation was published in Ecology, one of the leading journals in ecological sciences. This article received a national award from the Ecological Society of America in 2009.
The paper found evidence contrary to the assumption that communities of soil microbes in a common environment will function in the same way. By comparing the decomposition rates of soil litter, he discovered that differences in microbial communities account for substantial variation in the production of carbon dioxide.
“Mike's work shows that traits of these microbial assemblages – microorganisms that live in the soil – can have differential effects on processing carbon and thereby affecting global carbon balances,” said Amy Rosemond, assistant professor in the Odum School.
These findings suggest that an implicit assumption in ecosystem models is incorrect and may assist scientists in accurately predicting the impact of global climate change on ecosystems.
Strickland has also had success in securing grant funding for his research. While a student, he received a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement grant.
After graduating from UGA, Strickland accepted a position as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University.
The Graduate School began the Graduate Student Excellence in Research Awards in 1999 to recognize the quality and significance of graduate student research. The awards recognize research in five areas: Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Professional and Applied Sciences.