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Ashley Shade Elected Ecological Society of America Early Career Fellow

College of Natural Science

Ashley Shade, Michigan State University microbial ecologist, was selected as a 2019-2023 Ecological Society of America (ESA) Early Career Fellow for her pioneering work into advancing the understanding of the consequences of microbial diversity for resilience, how interactions among microbes impact resilience and how microbiomes can be leveraged to support plant stress tolerance and ecosystem stability.

The ESA, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. Elected for five years, ESA Early Career Fellows are members who, within eight years of completing their doctoral training, have advanced ecological knowledge and applications and show the potential to continue to make outstanding contributions to the organization.

“I am so excited and happy to have been selected as an ESA Early Career Fellow, and I am really grateful to the folks that nominated me,” said Shade, who holds joint appointments in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics (MMG) in the College of Natural Science and the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The ESA is the largest ecological society in the United States and abroad, so to be recognized by them is a milestone for me in my career.”

“As a microbial ecologist, I feel like I am in between disciplines—not really a microbiologist or an ecologist—but walking a very interdisciplinary line and connecting with both communities,” said Shade, who is also a member of MSU’s Plant Resilience Institute. “Having the recognition from the ESA is really validating as a microbial ecologist!”

Shade’s research spans venues from the Centralia, Penn., long-burning coal seam fire soil ecosystem to microbiome communities present in the root system of legumes to, more recently, the seed microbiome and its effect on the next generation of plant. In all of these arenas, Shade’s research investigates how microorganisms—the smallest life forms—have large and critical roles in maintaining the health of entire ecosystems.

“This is a tremendous honor, recognizing Ashley’s achievements and her clear trajectory toward continued success in her research and scholarship,” said Victor DiRita, MMG professor and department chair. “Microbial communities contribute in critical ways in the environment—from water to soil to the human gut—so Ashley’s research, asking how complex community structures respond to environmental challenges, has a high impact across biology. Early career recognition by a professional society with the prestige of ESA distinguishes research by rising young investigators and helps point others to emerging, important areas of investigation.”

Before joining the MSU faculty in 2014, Shade was a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation postdoctoral fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation at Yale University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2010. Shade is a member of the American Society for Microbiology and the International Society for Microbial Ecology and serves as an editor for the scientific journals mSystems and Ecology Letters.

For more information on this year’s cohort and to learn about past ESA fellows, please visit https://www.esa.org/esablog/ecology-in-the-news/news-events/2019-fellows/.

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