Meet the Grad Slam Finalists: Rachel Wigginton
Program and Degree:
Ecology, Ph.D., 6th year
Wetland Ecology, Restoration, and Conservation Science
Grad Slam Presentation Title:
Road to Recovery: Plant Invasion and Wetland Restoration on the California Coast
What initially attracted you to your field of study?
I grew up on a farm in south central Kentucky. I spent a lot of my childhood mucking around in creeks and in the woods. I knew I wanted to work in nature, and our family trips to the Gulf of Mexico fostered my interest in the ocean. I spent my undergraduate years studying streams and rivers, so when I made the move to California for graduate school, I knew wetland ecology was a place I could expand my existing research skills in a marine setting. What really sold me on wetlands was how imperiled they across the United States and in California particularly. I wanted to help us understand and protect these disappearing habitats.
How would you describe your presentation style?
When presenting I try to efficient, engaging, and enthusiastic.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in developing your presentation?
The time constraints made it very challenging to build a story for the audience, which I always try to do in any presentation. I want to take time to describe a wetland to the audience, and help folks care about the muddy marsh. If I cannot demonstrate the wonder of these natural spaces, I won't be able to really show the importance of my research. Doing all that in about 30 seconds was certainly a challenge!
Other than your own, which presentation in your Qualifying Round time slot impressed you the most?
I was really impressed by everyone in my round, because it really showcased the variety of research and presentation styles at UC Davis. If I had to pick a favorite, I would say (2017 finalist Don Gibson's) research looking at phosphorus fertilizer production. I had no idea this was an emerging area of agricultural research and that UC Davis was on the cutting edge! I also really liked this speaker's visual aids (bags of fertilizer to show how much is applied vs. how much is absorbed by plants)! This was an extremely effective visual communication tactic.
Aside from your graduate research, what are your other passions or hobbies?
Beyond mucking about in marshes, I enjoy playing soccer, hiking with my dog, and practicing aikido with my husband. I'm also very passionate about science communication and undergraduate mentoring.
Are you #TeamRachel?
Cheer her on at the April 5 UC Davis Grad Slam Finals. The event is free and open to the public, but seats are limited so reserve your ticket via Eventbrite today.
About Grad Slam
UC Grad Slam is an annual contest in which master’s and Ph.D. students across UC campuses – in disciplines ranging from hard sciences to humanities – compete to sum up their research for a general audience. Students should present the significance and fundamental points of their work at UC Davis in a clear, direct, and interesting manner.
Participants are judged on how well they engage the audience, how clearly they communicate key concepts and how effectively they focus and present their ideas—all in three minutes or less.
Grad Slam contests are held on each of UC’s 10 campuses from February through May. The first place winners from each campus will square off to capture the systemwide title and their share of $10,000 in prize money.
For more information on the competition, visit grad.ucdavis.edu/gradslam.