Paul Risteca

Biological Sciences

Paul is a PhD student in Dr. Jeb Barrett’s lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. His research at VT is focused on the effects of climate change and the resulting changes in hydrological connectivity on soil community dynamics and nutrient cycling in polar soil ecosystems.

Paul is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, where he received a B.S. in Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology in 2019 and an M.S. in Bioinformatics in 2021. As an undergraduate student, he worked as a research assistant in a microbial ecology lab where he carried out independent exploration linking anthropogenic stressors to observed changes in freshwater microbial communities. He continued his M.S. thesis work in this lab, focusing on characterizing the bacterial communities of the microplastic microbiome and assessing the interactions between microplastic, pharmaceutical contaminants, and microbial assemblages.

Risteca, Paul_profile

Paul started his PhD work in the Barrett Lab in the Summer of 2020. His research is being conducted in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDVs) of Antarctica and is part of the NSF’s Long-term Ecological Research Program. He is interested in mapping microbial communities across spatial and temporal gradients throughout the MDVs, characterizing their genomic capacity with respect to overall ecosystem function and stress tolerance, and understanding how microbial communities recover from seasonal and experimentally imposed disturbances.

Born and raised in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, Paul was brought up living at the cusp of the population growth of suburbia, urbanization of a great metropolis, and the vast ecosystems in sprawling prairies of the American Midwest. This rapidly changing environment, resulting from anthropogenic influences, is what first sparked his interest in the challenges facing our society and the planet. He believes that his main role as an ecosystem scientist is to use his expertise to ignite a sense of passion for science in the public, and to equip policy makers with the information they need to make informed decisions.

Paul is excited to be part of the IGC Fellowship Program where he will have the opportunity to contribute to collaborative interdisciplinary work and gain new skills for more innovative solutions to the challenges facing our environment