Dr. Nick Deacon
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Ph.D. in plant biology at the University of Minnesota
E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone - 507-786-3984
Office - Regents Hall 432
Classes - Evolution and Diversity, Conservation Biology, Plant Morphology
I consider myself a plant evolutionary ecologist and I'm broadly interested in the many questions that intersect this label. I spent several years working in natural areas management and restoration as an intern and an employee with The Nature Conservancy. That experience helped me realize that I wanted to pose research questions that led to a better understanding of biodiversity and, consequently, better ways it can be protected and restored. My dissertation research centered on the question of how anthropogenic landscape conversion and habitat fragmentation have impacted the live oaks (Quercus oleoides) of Northwest Costa Rica. I used molecular genetic tools to analyze population genetic structure and average pollen dispersal distance to try to understand how the altered landscape affected the genetic diversity of the population and whether some areas were becoming reproductively isolated. I also grew several thousand seedlings from distinct genetic families and planted them in gardens along a steep rainfall gradient to test for a fitness advantage by seedlings in their own environment. It was somewhat surprising to find very high genetic diversity in this relatively small part of the range of this species and there is some evidence that genetic diversity is being lost and pre-fragmentation genetic structure is being eroded in post-fragmentation forests. I continue to be interested in the live oaks of Costa Rica and hope to continue collecting data on the seedlings that grow in the common garden experiment.
I have worked on other research questions over the past 5 years in collaboration with various friends and students. Many of these relate to the evolutionary and ecological forces involved in plant community assembly and composition. There are several interesting approaches combining phylogenetic and relative abundance data to try to understand the "rules" that govern which species end up where. I am also interested in the role that fungi and animals, particularly pollinators, play in plant ecology and evolution. I have some familiarity with plant physiological ecology and supervised undergraduate research on the effects of stem freezing on xylem conductance. I recently worked with the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus on a pilot project where we used organic compost tea on campus lawns rather than traditional chemical fertilizers and pesticides.