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Thank you thank you thank you!!!

My acknowledgements section, soon to be buried in a dissertation found only through an online database, seems far more useful as a thank you note if I share it publicly here with you. Note: there are far more names of family, mentors, and friends that got me through my PhD, so if you are reading this, be sure that I am deeply thankful to you as well.

The work presented in my dissertation is truly the product of the support from many wonderful mentors, collaborators, research assistants, peers, and friends. I am grateful for the time and energy that went into editing my writing, counting nodules, keeping my research plants alive, and listening to my ideas, even the less-than-reasonable ones with a mentoring kindness that made me believe I could make it all happen.

I am incredibly grateful to my PhD advisor, Dr. Daniel Ballhorn, and my dissertation committee, Dr. Sarah Eppley, Dr. Todd Rosenstiel, Dr. Jason Podrabsky, and Dr. Yangdong Pan. I recently heard a presenter state,

“You are the average of the five people with whom you choose to surround yourself.”

If this applies to the five people listed above that I chose to serve on my committee, my average would be significantly more talented, patient, empowering, and curious—qualities of my academic mentors that have gotten me to where I am today with the opportunity to write an acknowledgements section. Specifically, I am grateful for Sarah’s approach to ecology and timely perspectives that inspired me many times. Todd’s never-ending challenge to seek a bigger question empowered me to create work of which I am proud. Jason responded with alacrity and caring support in the face of most challenges I brought to him—including joining my committee midway. Dr. Pan never failed to respond to my stream of statistical questions with a lighthearted patience. Thank you all. It is an honor to have you on my team.

In deep appreciation for my committee chair, Dr. Daniel Ballhorn’s guidance has been an integral part of my development as a scientist, poising me to contribute to the global scientific community. For that, I could not be more grateful. Dan supported my wild ideas, yet also provided helpful feedback and wisdom at important moments. It has been a privilege to work with Dan for the past five years.

Our community in Ballhorn Lab has grown throughout these five years as well. Thank you to Dr. Steffi Kautz, for training and guidance invaluable to me throughout my graduate career. To Brett Younginger, Emily Wolfe, Mehmet Balkan, and Nathan Stewart for being an incredible team and significantly affecting my appreciation for fungi.

My ever-evolving team of research assistants that volunteered their time to run chemical assays, count trichomes, water plants, write drafts, and keep me company, never failed to brighten my day. A special thank you to all students that worked with me on these projects: postbacs- Tanya Smagula, Katie Baxter, Aramee Diethelm, Julie Trisel, and Trevor Williams; undergraduates (PSU)- JG Bradner, Fidel Gonzales-Ferrer, Vy Tran, Katya Davidson, Alf Fink, Omar Cazares, Barbara Olvera, Ben Watzig, Brady Hall, Brit George, Luke Weinstein; (PCC)- Bodhi Zamudio, Whitney Korenek; (Queens University)- Lynne Stracovsky; high school students- Vy Nguyen, Lisa Grimm, and Katie Woodhouse. Each of you have made my PhD a better body of work and my time at Portland State far more fun.

I want to specifically thank the unsung heroes, my unofficial support team, that serve many students as they pass through Portland State. Linda Taylor, Greenhouse Manager, relentlessly kept my plants’ best interests in mind, keeping plants alive and healthy enough for experimental integrity. Wentai Luo, Senior Research Associate, graciously trained me to run GC-TOF-MS samples and carefully analyze my data. Marc Nisenfeld, Miracle Worker for the Science Support Shop, translated many of my crazy ideas into laser-cut and gas-tight reality. Leah Tuor, Ian Garrett, Judy Ngai, Lindsay Henderson, and Megan Simon, guardians of the Biology Department, for the paper trails and emails that make all of this work possible.

Learning how to communicate and connect with varying audiences about my work has been a journey that I have not taken alone. Thank you to Cat Dayger for serving as my first line of peer-review in our symbiotic editing arrangement. Thank you to the long list of mentors that periodically agreed to meet with me over coffee, OMSI Science Communication Staff, Office of Graduate Studies 3MT staff, and the Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Board of Directors for helping me learn how to tell a more powerful story. Thank you to my non-science friends, family, and guests at the Andina bartop for any time you did not understand my work, challenging me to communicate what I am trying to say more clearly and in a more compelling, personal manner.

To all my family and friends, thank you for being my constant cheerleader, enduring my existential crises, and listening over and over to my latest lima bean stories. Mom, you are a courageous beacon of kindness and I can only hope to learn to wield the warmth of your love to connect with people the way that you do. Daddio, your passion and eye for beauty in the world are incredible gifts. Seeing the world in this light, I fear I will never be able to stop seeking ways to illuminate the beauty of the natural world.

On a personal note, I want to thank my Biology Department community of faculty, grad students, et. al for creating an atmosphere that lifts each other up, embraces diverse fields of study, and is constantly hungry for greater impact and seminar cookies. We have a wonderful community here at Portland State Biology. Create the community you love, love the community you create.

The work I present here was funded by Portland State University’s Forbes-Lea and David T. Clark awards and the National Science Foundation through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG), and other funding awarded to Dr. Daniel Ballhorn (award IDs: 2014159631, 1457369, and 1501420).

As a final word, thank you again Dan. I look forward to the Google Scholar alerts filled with your future discoveries and the conference poster sessions, where we will meet to scheme up new questions as colleagues.

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