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Rachel Thiet, PhD

Antioch University New England

Think of our life in nature, daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we? – Henry David Thoreau, “Ktaddn”

I’ve been working my entire professional life for an opportunity to contribute to a community like Antioch University New England. I was lucky early in life to have wonderful high school and undergraduate teachers who were committed to teaching critical thinking skills, political awareness, and social responsibility. Fascinated with social science at a young age, I attended the Residential College at the University of Michigan, where I studied political economics and developed an interest in and concern about the impacts of globalization on women in the global economy.

Throughout undergraduate school and for several years afterward, I worked as a counselor and educator in a variety of adolescent treatment facilities and educational research foundations. I began a new chapter in my life by turning toward what had until then been a hobby: I began graduate school in ecology at Ohio State University in 1996, where I researched the impact of soil cyanobacteria and soil fungi on nitrogen cycling and plant invasiveness. For six years at Ohio State, I had an opportunity to teach several undergraduate courses, which allowed me to combine my interest in working with students with my passion for ecology.

During graduate school, I discovered that I was happiest and energized by my interactions with students and by communicating information that enhances their sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world. I love working through difficult ideas with my students and I am enriched by the discoveries we make together.

Antioch New England is a perfect place for me to marry my interdisciplinary social science background with my disciplinary training in plant and soil ecology. I love filling an important niche at Antioch through my teaching and research in soil microbial ecology, soil nutrient cycling, and the impacts of soil organisms on long-term ecosystem sustainability.

Educational History

  • PhD, Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology (Soil Microbial Ecology), The Ohio State University
  • BA, Social Sciences, University of Michigan
  • MS, Natural Resources (Wetlands Ecology), The Ohio State University
  • Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Associate, Soil Microbial Ecology, University of New Hampshire

I am a coastal systems ecologist with broad interests in coastal restoration, sediment and soil ecology, plant ecology, biogeochemistry, aboveground-belowground interactions, and invertebrate ecology. Most of my research in terrestrial ecosystems is focused primarily on the interactions among plants, soil organisms, and invertebrates. My work in aquatic systems is focused on the effects of tidal restoration and active management of salt marshes on hydrophytic plant reestablishment, benthic invertebrates, and sediment biogeochemistry. Specifically, I have an active research program with the US National Park Service, Cape Cod National Seashore, where I have worked with my Cape Cod collaborators and Antioch students for nearly 15 years on the following projects:

  • The effects of tidal restoration on bivalve community composition, diversity, and distribution (long-term data set at East Harbor back-barrier salt marsh lagoon, N. Truro, MA)
  • The effects of mollusk reestablishment on sediment and water column biogeochemistry and macroalgal blooms (East Harbor)
  • Population structure, distribution, and spawning activity of American horseshoe crabs (East Harbor)
  • Population structure, distribution, and diet preferences of invasive green crabs (East Harbor)
  • Halophyte reestablishment and seed bank composition in tidally restricted, Phragmites-dominated salt marshes (Hatches Harbor salt marsh, Provincetown, MA)
  • The effects of algal, bryophytic, and lichen biomats on the establishment and productivity of sand dune plants (Province Lands sand dunes, Provincetown, MA)
  • Myrmecochory and seedling establishment of broom crowberry in restored coastal heathlands (Marconi Heathlands, Wellfleet, MA)

Additional research projects include:

  • The relationship between invasive earthworms, soil properties, and burrowing mammal diversity and density in New England forests (southern NH and VT)
  • The effects of oyster aquaculture on finfish species composition and diversity (Damariscotta River, ME)
  • The effects of educational whale watch programs on pro-environmental behavior (Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA)
  • The relationship between ant species diversity, wild lupine establishment, and endangered Karner blue butterfly abundance (Concord Pine Barrens, Concord, NH)
  • The effects of invasive fire ants on soil physical properties (Bar Harbor, ME)

Please see my list of publications for specific information about each of these projects, and contact me if you would like to get involved!

Corbin, J.D. and R.K. Thiet. 2020. Temperate biocrusts: mesic counterparts to their better-known dryland cousins. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, early online doi: 10.1002/fee.2234.

Thiet, R.K., A. Dawson, B. Fagan, J. Hubbard, T. Meier, S. Lamonde, and R. Settele.  2018. Advice to master’s students for successfully navigating an interdisciplinary environmental studies program. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 99(3):314-326.

Uyizeye, O., R.K. Thiet, and M.A. Knorr. 2019. Effects of community-accessible biochar and compost on diesel-contaminated soil. Bioremediation Journal 23(2):107-117.

Conkerton, H., R.K. Thiet, M. Tyrrell, K. Madeiros, and S. Smith. 2017. Prey preferences of invasive European green crabs (Carcinus maenas) in a New England back-barrier lagoon. Journal of Shellfish Research 36(1):189-199.

Thiet, R.K. 2017. An interactive, instant polling exercise to allay student anxiety in science courses. The American Biology Teacher 79(6)496-498.

Thiet, R.K. and J. Karlan. 2017. Sabotaging presentations to generate fundamental questions and integrate theory and practice. The American Biology Teacher 79(9): 769-773.

Baum, J. and R.K. Thiet. 2016. Using Soil Organisms to Explore Ecosystem Functioning, Services, and Sustainability. Chapter 11 (pp. 97-103) in: Learner-Centered Teaching Activities for Environmental and Sustainability Studies (Ed: L.B. Byrne), Springer International Publishing, Switzerland. Online doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28543-6_11.

Byrne, L.B., R.K Thiet, and V.B Chaudhary. 2016. Pedagogy for the Pedosphere. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14(5):238-240.

Pascale, E. and R.K. Thiet. 2016. The relationship between ants and Lycaeides melissa samuelis (Karner blue butterfly) at Concord Pine Barrens, NH, USA. Environmental Entomology 45(3):633-641 Online doi: 10.1093/ee/nvw036

Hilley, E. and R.K. Thiet. 2015. Vulnerable broom crowberry (Corema conradii) benefits from ant seed dispersal in coastal US heathlands. Plant Ecology 216(7):493-503.

Thiet, R.K. 2014. Students dig deep for the Mystery Soil Lab: An inquiry-based, problem-solving soil ecology laboratory project. The American Biology Teacher 76(1):47-52.

Thiet, R.K., A. Doshas, and S.M. Smith. 2014. The effect of biological soil crusts on germination and productivity of two early-successional dune plants Deschampshia flexuosa and Morella pennsylvanica on Cape Cod, MA. Plant and Soil 377(1):235-244. Online doi: 10.1007/s11104-013-2002-8.

Thiet, R.K., S.M. Smith, V. Rubino, R. Clark, J. Oset, and K. Lee. 2014. Soft shell clams (Mya arenaria) contribute to macroalgal blooms in a partially-restored Gulf of Maine back-barrier lagoon. Ecological Restoration 32(1):46-58.

Thiet, R.K., E. Kidd, J.M. Wennemer, and S.M. Smith. 2014. Molluscan community recovery in a New England back-barrier salt marsh lagoon 10 years after partial restoration. Restoration Ecology 22(4):447-455.  Online doi: 10.1111/rec.12083.

Wheeler, J., Thiet, R.K., and Smith, S.M. 2013. Enhancing habitat for native halophytes through removal of Phragmites australis in a restored salt marsh on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Park Science 29(2):42-48.

Colbert, N.K., R.F. Baldwin, and R.K. Thiet. 2011. A developer-initiated conservation plan for pool-breeding amphibians in Maine, USA: A case study. Journal of Conservation Planning 7:27-38.

Thelen, B.A. and Thiet, R.K. 2009. Molluscan community recovery following partial tidal restoration of a New England estuary. Restoration Ecology 17(5):695-703.

Thelen, B.A. and Thiet, R.K. 2008. Cultivating connection: incorporating meaningful citizen science into Cape Cod National Seashore’s estuarine research and monitoring programs. Park Science 25(1): 74-80.

Thiet, R.K. and Boerner, R.E.J. 2007. Spatial pattern of ectomycorrhizal fungal inoculum in arbuscular mycorrhizal barrens communities: implications for controlling invasion by Pinus virginiana. Mycorrhiza 17:507-517.

Thiet, R.K. 2007. Loess. In: P. Robbins (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Environment and Society (pp. 1065-1066). SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Thiet, R.K. 2007. Collective Agriculture. In: P. Robbins (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Environment and Society (pp. 298-299). SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Thiet, R.K. 2007. Dust. In: P. Robbins (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Environment and Society (p. 494). SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Thiet, R.K. 2007. Decomposition. In: P. Robbins (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Environment and Society (pp. 418-419). SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Thiet, R.K., Frey, S.D., and Six, J. 2006. Do growth yield efficiencies differ between soil microbial communities differing in fungal:bacterial ratios? Reality check and methodological issues. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 38:837-844.

Six, J., Frey, S., Thiet, R.K. and Batten, K. 2006. Bacterial and fungal contributions to carbon sequestration in agroecosystems. Soil Science Society of America Journal 70:555-569.

Thiet, R.K., Boerner, R.E.J., Nagy, M., and Jardine, R. 2005. The effect of biological soil crusts on rainwater and nitrogen infiltration into Lake Michigan sand dune soils. Plant and Soil 278:235-252.

Simpson, R.T., Frey, S.D., Six, J., and Thiet, R.K. 2004. Preferential stabilization of microbial-derived carbon in microaggregates contained in macroaggregates of no-tillage soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal 68:1249-1255.

Thiet, R.K. 2002. Diversity comparison between diked and undiked coastal freshwater marshes on Lake Erie during a high-water year. Journal of Great Lakes Research 28:285-298.

Annual Reports:

Smith, S.M., K. Chapman, K. Lee, M. Tyrrell, J. Wennemer, and R. Thiet. 2008. Annual Report on Estuarine Restoration at East Harbor (Truro, MA), Cape Cod National Seashore, 2008. NPS Technical Report, Cape Cod National Seashore, Wellfleet, MA.

Wennemer, J. and R. Thiet. 2007. Chapter 8: Shellfish. In: Portnoy, J., S.M. Smith, K. Lee, K. Chapman, M. Galvin, E. Gwilliam, P. Lyons, and C. Thornber. Annual Report on Estuarine Restoration at East Harbor (Truro, MA), Cape Cod National Seashore, 2007. NPS Technical Report, Cape Cod National Seashore, Wellfleet, MA.

Core Faculty,

Environmental Studies & Sustainability

Director of Conservation Biology,

Environmental Studies & Sustainability


Courses Taught

Courses I teach in the Master’s Program at Antioch University New England include :

  • Introduction to Wetlands: Ecological Principles
  • Soil Ecology
  • Earth Systems and Climate Change
  • Community Ecology of New England
  • Evolutionary Ecology
  • Wetlands Ecology
  • Natural and Human Landscapes of Alaska, (field study trip in Alaska)
  • Research Seminar
  • Desert Ecology, (field studies trip in the Sonoran Desert)
  • Coastal Geoecology, (field studies trip on Cape Cod)
  • Tropical Ecology and Conservation, (field studies trip in Costa Rica)
  • Learning Domain Seminar II (PhD Program)
  • Comparative Ecological Analysis (PhD Program)
  • Conservation Biology

Courses I Teach Outside Antioch University New England:

  • Geoecology of New Hampshire Soils (Harris Center for Conservation Education, Hancock, NH)

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