JENNIFER PECHAL: Jen identified key species involved in the decomposition processes of ephemeral resources in terrestrial habitats, and their roles in community assemblages and ecosystem dynamics. Specifically, she examined the trophic level interactions between microbes, blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) and carrion. She was involved in a multi-institutional collaborative effort studying microbial communities found on carrion based on their functional and structural profiles throughout the decomposition process.
Utilizing molecular and physiological responses of microbial communities is a novel concept being applied to carrion models in order to better elucidate species interactions and mechanisms that drive decomposition of ephemeral resources. This work has several applications but primarily is providing one of the foundations for more accurate estimations of how long a resource has been decomposing, which directly translates to improving forensics estimations of how long a person has been exposed for colonization or period of insect activity. Jen completed her PhD in May 2012 and is currently a postdoctoral associate with Dr. Eric Benbow at the University of Dayton.