Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Biology



Major Advisor

Gregory Hampikian, Ph.D.


William Bourland, M.D.


Merlin M. White, Ph.D.


Ian C. Robertson, Ph.D.


I conducted a pilot study to examine species richness of terrestrial ciliates associated with big sagebrush habitat (Artemisia tridentata) in southwestern Idaho, USA. As wildland fires are a naturally occurring disturbance in this area, soil variables associated with these fires (% C, % N, pH, soil texture, and % clay) were measured at three sites, both in burned and unburned areas. These soil characteristics were compared to corresponding ciliate diversity and ratios of r-selected colpodeans to K-selected polyhymenophorans (C/P) in non-flooded Petri dish preparations. A total of 85 ciliate taxa were observed across the three sites, including one potentially novel species of Gastrostyla. Eleven of the 85 species (13%), seven of which were Colpodeans, were found in all plots. Of the 85 species recorded, 27 occurred in only one plot, and 15 were present only in two. Therefore, 49.4% of species observed within the seven samples were considered rare. C/P ratios and observed species richness were negatively correlated between unburned and burned plot conditions, except for the paired samples from one site. No statistically significant associations between richness and soil variables were found. A significant negative relationship was found between C/P ratios and % clay, with unburned plots experiencing a lower C/P ratio and higher percent clay. This study shows promise for identifying and understanding the role and relationship of terrestrial ciliates both within and to their environment.