Tommy DiPaola

SNC ecology student Tommy DiPaola lakeside

Major: Environmental Science, Ecology

Class of: 2019

I love the comfort of a mountain town, the quiet after a snowfall, and the excitement that follows the new snow. Even the night before you can feel your friends on edge, ready to be on the mountain. My most influential experiences at SNC have all been in the wild, those moments where you look around and realize “there’s no where I would rather be than here.”

My soul “clicks” with nature, and my brain “clicks” with science.

SNC ecology student Tommy DiPaola's digital bulletin board of photosAfter exploring some lab science, it became clear to me that I want to explore biological science in the field! Being able to observe interesting trends and interpret their impact on the surrounding ecosystem just does it for me.

I did an internship at Creekside Charter School leading guided dissections with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. We started with an earthworm, then a crawdad, then a perch, and ended with a pigs heart! These kids’ science program had never involved dissections in the past. This gave them a way to physically explore biology. I believe this is a necessary part of the scientific learning process.

I’m currently working on a project to measure the carbon footprint of the school itself. I’ll collect data from various sources: surveying, a simple count of all the fixtures, previous power bills, etc. Then I can input the data into a program which interprets our college’s ecological carbon foot print. It will also offer some possibilities for how to reduce it.

My primary field work studies the heredity of aspen stands in the Tahoe Basin. Western aspens aren’t known to reproduce through seed dispersion. They commonly use something called “root suckers” which sprout from their roots underground and create clones. All the trees in a clone have identical characteristics and share one root structure. I’m interested in finding out how some of the largest Aspen stands in the basin began there, whether through seed dispersion or other means. I also want to try to tie together the complex map of aspens in the basin though their age and hereditable traits.


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