Natasha Wesely, PhD student

Female grad student in snow gear looks at moth perched on her glove. Background features snow, spruce trees, and partial clouds.

Interviewed by STICH Scholar and Ecoss social media specialist Kayla Blair.

Meet Natasha Wesely, a second year PhD student in Dr. Andrew Richardson’s lab. Natasha focuses on modeling different major ecosystem processes. One of her projects involves her creating a new soil restoration model to investigate how soil respiration is driven differently in arid ecosystems compared to non arid ecosystems. She also works on modeling carbon systems in particular grassland ecosystems in New Mexico. 

What is your research topic for your thesis work with Dr. Richardson?

I am interested in major ecosystem processes and how best to model those. I’m working on one project where I’m creating a new soil restoration model for arid grasslands. This is something many people have been working on before, but we have been coming up with a really exciting well-performing new model which I think will tell us a lot about how soil respiration is driven differently in arid ecosystems in comparison to non arid ecosystems.

What inspired you to pursue this route of research?

I got into undergrad research and I really loved it. I felt so much more challenged in ways that I wasn’t in my classes. I worked for a while at a research institute after my undergraduate degree and I just really felt like the people whose skills I wanted to have were PhD students. 

Besides your work at Ecoss, what is something else you enjoy doing or learning about?

I’m a big backcountry skier and mountain biker! 

How do you hope your research will impact your community?

In order for us to adapt to climate change, we have to know what’s going to happen, which has always been my motive to model ecosystem processes under climate change. Modeling has uncertainties, but having some idea of the impact these ecological processes have on various scales is way more helpful to prepare than having no idea. I hope my work will contribute to that. 

What is your favorite part of your research?

I like being challenged and having to find creative solutions to the endless problems that come up in any research project. I really like working with my advisor, as well, and the culture within Ecoss. Your relationship with your advisor is more important than anything else. I think when I was picking grad school positions I wasn’t emphasizing that, but the people you work with are gonna make or break your experience.