Changing our ecosystem from the ground up

Michael McTavish.How much do you really know about the creepy crawlers in your backyard? Yes, we are talking about earthworms. PhD student Michael McTavish is somewhat of an expert on this subject. In fact, he is conducting research to understand the impact that exotic earthworms have on our ecosystem.

Most earthworms in North America are actually an exotic, invasive species, a fact that often comes as a surprise to many people.  These earthworms can actually do a bit of damage, modifying soil and interacting with plants and seeds. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future these bad boys are here to stay, as it is not feasible to remove them. Because of this, Michael is currently doing research to understand how we can learn to love these species.

The Environment & Resource Studies (ERS) student became involved with this research by signing up to work as an assistant on a research project looking at earthworm dispersal during his undergraduate degree. This eventually evolved into a PhD project at Waterloo. Michael is very passionate about his research.

Earthworms have been a bit of a pet study organism for me for the last several years. They have some incredibly interesting behaviour and are enormously influential organisms to work with. Earthworms seem so common and familiar, and yet, there remains so much about them that we still don’t know. –Michael McTavish

Michael was recently awarded the André Hamer Postgraduate Prize, taking home $10,000. Thrilled and humbled with this honour, he plans to put this money towards his research.

I’m extremely grateful and appreciative of the opportunities that it opens up. In some regards, I feel rather self-conscious about it. There are so many fantastic researchers out there and I think it’s a shame that not everyone can receive the recognition that they absolutely do deserve. It also reminds me how much gratitude I owe to all of the colleagues and advisors past and present that have made this work possible. I certainly could not have done it without them. – Michael McTavish

Michael is excited to continue his research and praises UWaterloo for his success.

The quality of the work that I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with is very much made possible by the wonderful environment here at Waterloo. From lab facilities to a wonderful faculty and department, I’m very grateful for the chance to be able to do research here. –Michael McTavish

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