John Klironomos lives out his passion for soil and plant ecology at UBC’s Okanagan campus
September 19, 2016
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
PhD (Biology), University of Waterloo
BSc, (Biology), Concordia University
“I am passionate about discovering new ideas about how nature works. I am also very passionate about working with students.”
JOHN KLIRONOMOS was recently named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, one of the highest accolades a Canadian academic can achieve.
At UBC Okanagan, he is regarded as an engaging and enthusiastic biology professor who embraces the university’s culture of bold research by encouraging his students to take risks.
Klironomos is a strong believer in hands-on learning and research-based teaching.
“When you see a student get it, that’s really powerful,” he says. “Research creates new knowledge, and is a vehicle for learning. You can lecture all you want, but if a student works in a research environment, engagement and learning are greatly enhanced,” he says.
For Klironomos, the relatively small size of the campus along with a comprehensive set of programs, makes UBC Okanagan unique. “We have experts in a very broad array of disciplines, but also a small, intimate environment where we can interact with students, staff and faculty.”
At the Plant and Soil Ecology Lab, Klironomos leads a team of skilled researchers comprised of students and scientists from UBC Okanagan and around the world. Klironomos’ research focuses on plant and soil microbial ecology, working mainly with mycorrhizal fungi, which are small fungi that live in the soil and form a mutualistic relationship with plants.
Klironomos’ groundbreaking research in soil ecology helps scientists to better understand how native plant species will respond to climate change, and the causes and consequences of invasive species. His findings also have important implications for successful land rehabilitation.
His early research was considered “too risky” by some because the fungi are difficult to work with. “But UBC gave me the green light and helped me build a lab that is giving me a chance to prove to the world just how vital these remarkable fungi are to the diversity of plant life on this planet.”
Klironomos says UBC Okanagan is a great place to do this kind of work because it is in the middle of a very diverse landscape—one of the most diverse landscapes in the country, so studying natural ecosystems makes sense here. He adds that this, coupled with UBC’s investment into resources, is building a world-class group of researchers.
A PLACE OF RARE BEAUTY
Klironomos feels very fortunate to live in the Okanagan. “It is a beautiful place. I love the landscape, the semi-arid ecosystem. It is very diverse biologically. It is also a great place to enjoy with friends and family if you like the outdoors.”
He’s passionate about discovering new ideas about how nature works, he says: “This is largely what keeps my interests in conducting research.
“I am also very passionate about working with students. Teaching them, but also learning from them. It’s been very easy to live out my passion here at UBC Okanagan. It’s pretty much what I do every day.”
—by May Li