Gregorio I. Gavier Pizarro, newly minted Ph.D.
On December 16, 2008, Gregorio Gavier Pizarro ended a great year for the SILVIS lab by successfully defending his doctoral dissertation on the ecology of invasive plants in the Wisconsin’s Baraboo Hills and Argentina’s Sierras Chicas de Córdoba.
To continue what is fast becoming a tradition in the lab, after his defense Grego was hoisted onto a makeshift sedan chair, and paraded through campus, where he elicited cheers from passersby. The crowd’s reaction might have been due in part to the costume worn by Grego: a wool sweater covered with exotic weeds (most notably hundreds of cockleburs), complemented with a wig, a sword and a Viking helmet to better symbolize the conquering nature of the invasive species he studied. The destination was a State Street grill, an institution really, where the group gathered for congratulatory beers and brats.
However, a more proper celebration was later held at Anna and Volker’s, where enough tables and chairs were hauled from the barn to seat 30 guests for a delicious dinner. Antelope venison tapas, hand-made enchiladas, and tarte Lyonnaise were just some of the more memorable elements of the feast offered that evening. The meal was capped by a feuerzangenbowle, a mulled wine, rum and flaming sugar concoction that Volker insists he did not make up, but rather is a traditional German Holiday drink.
The dissertation defended by Grego was entitled “Understanding the relationship between housing and exotic plant invasions”, and it explores the effects of several factors by which housing development influences non-native plant invasions, advancing our understanding of the way land use profoundly transforms ecological communities. More details on the Wisconsin work are available here, and in an article in the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences’ Grow Magazine. When asked what the most difficult part of his defense was, Grego confided that he was taken aback when asked to explain the difference between a house and a housing unit. He accompanied the tale with a South-American gesture of dismay, fingers twirling backwards overhead.
Dr. Gavier Pizarro’s defense coincided with the visit of several SILVIS alumni: Todd Hawbaker (USGS), Charlotte Gonzalez-Abraham (UC-Riverside), and Alex Syphard (Conservation Biology Institute) were all in Madison to participate in a WUI/Fire meeting. All good friends of Grego’s, Todd, Charlotte and Alex contributed greatly to the festive quality of the event.