I grew up in the lush green hills of Tennessee but wasn’t interested in plants until I moved to the temperate rainforests of Western Oregon where plants quickly consumed me. Ironically, I still didn’t notice the lush mosses within these forests until after moving to Portland, OR to start college. I was extremely fortunate that my biology instructor, April Fong, from the local community college saw a direction and drive in me that I couldn’t even imagine at that point in my life. April suggested that I contact Sarah Eppley and Todd Rosenstiel at Portland State University once I transferred to ask about gaining some research experience just in case, I ever wanted to go to grad school. Research in the Eppley-Rosenstiel lab focuses on the physiology and ecology of mosses, topics which continue to consume my research interests. Just in case I wasn’t hooked, April also introduced me to SoBeFree, an annual west coast bryophyte foray. SoBeFree is very welcoming, and everyone made me feel like a part of the community well before I knew a thing about mosses. My research in the Eppley-Rosenstiel lab considered sex-specific physiological and morphological variation in Ceratodon purpureus and as predicted this experience fueled a non-stop stream of research questions on moss ecophysiology that could only be satiated by pursuing a PhD.
Specifically, I was interested in understanding how mosses impact and are impacted by co-occurring vascular plants and found an excellent mentor for these questions in Ray Callaway at the University of Montana where I worked in semi-arid Intermountain grasslands. During grad school, I was fortunate to join the Desiccation and Diversity in Dryland Mosses research group where I developed numerous collaborations with researchers I continue to work with and a deep understanding of the physiology of mosses throughout the desiccation and rehydration process. I was also fortunate to collaborate with Rebecca Durham at MPG Ranch, a conservation property in Western Montana (https://www.mpgranch.com/), where together we installed a large biocrust restoration experiment. These experiences helped me weave together and frame multiple research interests within a more applied context and led to a postdoc with Dean Pearson at the Rocky Mountain Research Station where my research focused on better integrating an understanding of biocrusts into the field of restoration ecology. My current postdoc with Nichole Barger at the University of Colorado, Boulder builds on my previous body of work to evaluate how precipitation and biocrust mosses impact vascular plant recruitment and strategies for restoration.
Throughout these experiences, one of the most exciting things for me has been introducing students and community members to mosses to inspire a closer look at things we all too often overlook in nature.
Slate, M.L., McLeod, M.L. and R. M. Callaway. 2021. Presence of an invasive forb and native moss modifies the effect of water pulses on soil nitrogen availability. Functional Ecology. 35:2108-2118. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13831
Slate, M.L., Brinda, J.C., Coe, K.K., Greenwood, J.L. and L.R. Stark. 2020. Prehydration mitigates damage accrued from prolonged periods of desiccation in cultured shoot apices of Syntrichia ruralis. Journal of Bryology. 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/03736687.2020.1833157
Slate, M.L., Durham, R.A., and D.E. Pearson. 2019. Strategies for restoring the structure and function of lichen-moss biocrust communities. Restoration Ecology. 28: S160-167. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.12996
Coe, K.K., Howard, N.B., Slate, M.L., Bowker, M.A., Mishler, B.D., Butler, R., Greenwood, J., and L.R. Stark. 2019. Morphological and physiological traits in relation to carbon balance in the diverse dryland moss clade Syntrichia. Plant, Cell & Environment. 42: 3140-3151. https://doi.org/10.1111/pce.13613
Slate, M.L., Sullivan, B.W. and R.M. Callaway. 2019. Desiccation and rehydration of mosses greatly increases resource fluxes that alter soil carbon and nitrogen cycling. Journal of Ecology. 107: 1767-1778. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13162
Slate, M.L., Callaway, R. M. and D. E. Pearson. 2019. Life in interstitial space: biocrusts inhibit exotic but not native plant establishment in semi-arid grasslands. Journal of Ecology. 107: 1317-1327. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13117
Slate, M. L., Stark, L. R., Greenwood, J. L., Clark, T. A. and J. C. Brinda. 2018. Prehydration rescues shoots of Syntrichia norvegica (Pottiaceae) damaged by extreme desiccation events. The Bryologist. 121: 13-204. https://doi.org/10.1639/0007-2745-121.2.193
Slate, M. L., Rosenstiel, T.N. and S.M. Eppley. 2017. Sex-specific physiology and morphological differences in the moss Ceratodon purpureus (Dicranales). Annals of Botany. 120: 845-854. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcx071