You could say that Scott Mangan began his ecology field work as a child, exploring the forest in his own back yard in rural Wisconsin. As a child, he was always fascinated by the multitude of species interactions that occurred in the small woodlot near his home. His early interests led him to complete undergraduate and master’s degrees in Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It was there where community ecologist, Dr. Gregory Adler, first introduced him to the extreme diversity of tropical forests of Central America and Southeast Asia. He completed his PhD at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana with Dr. James Bever. For both his Masters and doctoral research, he focused on determining the ecological importance of soil-borne fungi to tropical forest regeneration. Most tropical trees are dependent on the symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. These belowground fungi colonize tree roots and effectively increase the surface area of the tree’s root system. The fungus provides the tree with the ability access scarce nutrients, whereas the tree provides the fungus with sugars.
Much of Dr. Mangan’s field work has been conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. The Institute contains several research sites. Mangan studied at the oldest and most famous of these sites, Barro Colorado Island, located in the Panama Canal. This field station, complete with labs and dorms, provides him with infrastructure and logistical support to build upon his early studies, allowing him to experimentally address the importance of interaction formed between plants and the surrounding soil, specifically the biotic agents as well as fungal and bacterial pathogens contained in the soil.
His early studies built the foundation for his current research which suggests that plant-soil interactions provide answers to two fundamental ecological questions: What dynamics maintain species richness? What processes determine why some species are rare and others more common? The three major areas of study in the Mangan Lab are: the role of plant-soil feedbacks in determining plant-species composition; community ecology of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; and ecological and evolutionary implications of animal-fungal interactions.
Dr. Mangan joined Wash U’s Biology Department as Assistant Professor in September 2012. He will be teaching Bio 4193: Experimental Ecology Laboratory at Tyson Research Center. The course is being moved from fall to spring semester, beginning in spring 2014. Bio 4193 provides an overview of the design and interpretation of ecological research, with an emphasis on hypothesis testing, sampling methods, and data analyses. The course addresses how fundamental ecological knowledge is acquired through the use of observational studies, natural experiments, and field and laboratory manipulative experiments. In addition, he will be a mentor for Bio 200/500 and for the Tyson Summer Research Program, an active undergraduate research program in ecology, evolutionary biology, and related environmental sciences. Dr. Mangan will also be able to provide undergrads with opportunities for hands-on summer internships in Panama at the same field station where he studied with the Smithsonian Tropical Institute.
In his free time, Dr. Mangan continues to explore his lifelong interests in nature and hobby aviation. For more information about the Mangan Lab, go to: http://manganlab.weebly.com/index.html.