Monica Villegas


Monica Villegas graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2018 with a BS in Environmental Science. Her research interests include climate change effects on current and future environments. In the fall of 2018 Monica began attending Western Washington University in the MA of Environmental Studies program. Monica received a recruitment scholarship and a teaching assistantship to help fund her graduate studies. She continued her research in climate change at Western Washington University, where she completed her MA in Environmental Studies in 2020.

McNair Program Reflection:

"I would like to thank all of the McNair staff for making this experience memorable and extremely beneficial to me and my fellow McNair scholars. Without their help and support none of this would have been possible!"

2017 McNair Faculty Research Mentor: Dr. Justin Bastow - Biology

Research Title: Simulated Wildfire Effects on Soil Ecosystem Productivity: In Response to Climate Change 

Abstract: With an annual increase in temperatures across the pacific northwest due to climate change, the area is expected to see a spike in wildfires across the region. Washington state relies heavily on water, particularly from runoff of the cascades. With a decrease in overall snowpack accumulation and an earlier snowpack melt cause by climate change effects the regionis faced with some harmful consequences. An earlier snowpack melt in the region will lead to prolonged drought periods that can cause vegetation and wildlife to become weakened. This canlead to an increase in wildfires across the region and harm homes, forests, wildlife and soils. The effects of simulated wildfires on soil ecosystems was tested on two different types of soils;grassland and forest ecosystems. Plots were divided into equal sections containing a control,light fire intensity that was for a duration of five minutes and a high fire intensity that was for a  duration of ten minutes. Soil samples were taken before the burns, immediately after, andapproximately four weeks after the initial burn. Samples were taken for soil moisture andnematode abundance. Nematodes were used as a measure of soil productivity based on the large amounts of literature that supports their involvement within soil ecosystems. Nematodes were counted in each sample and placed into function groups based on their morphology. Overallthere was no significant effect of simulated wildfires on soil moisture across all treatments. However, simulated wildfires did indeed have a  significant effect on nematode abundance