Soil invertebrates are dyna-"mite"

Do you love Stephanie? Even though she is weird and loves insects and playing in the dirt?

Right now I am tackling my research project that aims to identify the most effective biophysical indicators of ecosystem biodiversity, recovery, resiliency, and ultimately reclamation success. Reclamation success or failure is based on regulatory criteria. Current reclamation criteria for disturbed lands mainly focus on soil and vegetation properties. These parameters may not provide a detailed picture of recovery after disturbance for more complex ecosystems.

This is where soil invertebrates come into play. Soil invertebrates affect numerous soil properties and influence availability of resources for plants and microorganisms. The diversity and composition of soil invertebrates are directly linked to ecosystem health, biodiversity, function and stability. While rarely considered in reclamation, they may be an effective indicator of reclamation success.

I am assessing reclamation sites following the current reclamation criteria and using additional indicators of soil invertebrates, in coal mining, oil sands mining, and pipeline disturbances. In other words I have collected a lot of insects and am working on identifying all of them. This is incredibly difficult as you need to be Liam Neeson in Taken- you need to have a specific set of skills to identify all these little critters- taxonomic skills. 

I have worked hard with some amazing mentors in Edmonton to learn as much as I can but I need an in depth immerse experience. The University of Ohio offers an in depth 3 week Soil Acarology Program and is currently the longest running program for training in identification of mites and ticks in the world. It has been one of the premier teaching programs in the identification of mites. This program will allow me to successfully complete my thesis work and make me a stronger scientist. 

I have signed up for the course (June 18 to Jul 6) in Columbus at the University of Ohio campus. I have also been pursuing any form of funding and financial support I get my hands on, but the bottom line is the course, travel, and accommodation is expensive. Currently my budget is at $6449.44, and the funding I have applied for would cover $3000 if I get the full amounts. I have saved $1000 personally to contribute to the course. But that leaves me with a deficit. 

If you can spare $5, $20, hell even more please consider donating to my education. I will be eternally grateful. Anyone who donates more than $100 will receive a special thank you card with a mite photo of a species I have identified. 

I will keep everyone updated on the funding applications. And how the budget is coming. Thank you for your love and support. This is my last degree, I promise.
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Stephanie Michelle 
Edmonton, AB
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