TRU science graduate stands out with study of invasive species destroying forests

By Chad Klassen
June 7, 2017 - 4:00pm

KAMLOOPS — On the first day of convocation at Thompson Rivers University, graduating science heard from a classmate who has wowed even seasoned professors, not only at TRU but across the country. 

Dylan Ziegler, this year's Valedictorian for the Department of Science, is an aspiring botanist and professor, someone who classmates and teachers describe as enthusiast to say the least. 

"When I think about Dylan as a student, I think about that underlying curiosity as being the driving motivation in the way he comes to class every day," said Lynn Baldwin, one of his biology teachers at TRU.

Ziegler formed the TRU Student Union Botany Club. He's been fascinated by plants since he was around 3 years old. 

"My mom gardened a lot when I was younger and one of the things that was absolutely incredible to me was how a flower can bloom so orchestrally every single time it blooms. It's always the same symmetry," he said. 

He directed that fascination to study plants, and in particular dwarf mistletoe --- an invasive species that has destroyed forests in the great northwest, and the B.C. Interior. 

As an undergrad, he published a paper on the biology of dwarf mistletoe and how it's capable of killing trees, a study that caught the attention of professors across the country.

"Understanding the development of dwarf mistletoe is critical to the forest industry because it's a parasite and it actually ruins timber quality," said Ziegler. "It embeds itself into the wood and destroys the wood as it moves through the tree. So the motivation behind this is to understand its biology better, so we can control it before it destroys massive hectares of forests."

The study of plants like dwarf mistletoe is a dying breed and why Ziegler's passions and contributions are so valuable. 

"He is an advocate for all things green and botanical," said Baldwin. "In many parts of the world today, populations are suffering what botanists call 'plant blindness.' That is, an inability to see, to recognize both the importance of plants in the larger ecosystem and the effect that they have on our every day life."

Ziegler is now moving onto the University of Manitoba to complete a Masters, one day hoping to teach and inspire more students like him into botany. 

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