Yong Zhou Receives Tom Slick Fellowship for 2017-2018

Congratulations to Yong Zhou! Yong, a Ph.D. student with Drs. Tom Boutton and Ben Wu in ESSM, was recently awarded a Tom Slick Graduate Research Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year. The Tom Slick Fellowship is the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' most prestigious competitive fellowship for outstanding graduate students to support the completion of their dissertation after they have been admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Yong joined the department as a Sid Kyle Graduate Merit Fellow in fall 2013, and is researching the impact of woody plant encroachment on soil biogeochemical processes. In Texas, many rangelands are experiencing the proliferation of woody plants, such as honey mesquite and eastern red cedar trees. This phenomenon has dramatically altered the structure and function of rangeland ecosystems, with the potential to profoundly influence rangeland diversity, hydrology, biogeochemistry, and livestock production. For his Ph.D. research, he aims to understand how woody plant encroachment into grasslands alters landscape-scale spatial patterns of soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus storage to a depth of 1.2 meters in a subtropical savanna which has undergone the encroachment of honey mesquite trees during the past century in southern Texas. Additionally, he quantifies spatial patterns of soil δ13C (stable carbon isotope ratios) along a soil profile to reconstruct vegetation dynamics and elucidate landscape evolution of this subtropical savanna.  The results of his research will provide valuable insights necessary to developing management efforts to maintain rangeland ecosystem services.  

Yong received a B.S. in Ecology from Northeast Normal University and an M.S. in Ecology from the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences. For his M.S. degree, he studied fine root dynamics, soil microbial community composition, soil priming effect, and soil stoichiometry in grassland and forest ecosystems. He has published 10 refereed journal articles in journals such as Journal of Ecology, Landscape Ecology, Plant and Soil, Oikos etc., and has a few manuscripts in review.

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Pictured: A view of the landscape encroached by honey mesquite and other woody species at the Texas A&M AgriLife La Copita Research Area, Alice, Texas (photo by Yong Zhou)